RPS union expresses frustration over mounting and 'out of hand' mold issues in schools

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Posted at 11:06 PM, Mar 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-28 23:06:26-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Members of the Richmond Public Schools union, the Richmond Education Association, gathered Thursday to discuss ongoing issues with mold and building safety within the schools.

It’s an issue the group has been advocating for over the last year as staff and students reported conditions in schools were making some sick.

However, it recently came to a head in March, after results from RPS showed that nearly every school had visible signs of mold growth.

“Teacher and staff working conditions are student's learning conditions. Students can not have conducive learning environments if they are worried about getting sick. Building safety issues have just gotten out of hand," said one of the organizers.

Some attendees said they did not feel there was a clear timeline for when problems would eventually be resolved.

Others said they were hesitant to report issues due to a fear of retaliation. Some expressed they feel frustrated as nothing is being done to fix the widespread problems.

“You don’t necessarily have to have an underlying health condition to be negatively affected by these school conditions but if you do it puts you at an extremely increased risk depending on what you are dealing with," said one employee.

“I’ve talked to people who work at other schools, not the schools that I work at who go home and blow their nose and it’s black. They then move to another school and suddenly realize they aren’t sick all the time anymore," shared another.

A spokesperson for Richmond Public Schools emphasized that the reports show all schools are safe. They said the report showed that the mold count inside the schools was lower than outside the schools.

"Mold is a naturally occurring substance and cannot be totally eliminated," the spokesperson stated.

RPS said they’ve also fixed half of the smaller issues the report found and that more would be fixed over the next month.

They add they are also in the process of establishing their first Facilities Audit to review the status of all buildings they hope to have completed by the end of the summer to allow the board to determine budget needs.

REA said they are happy to see the school board is proposing resolutions around air quality in next year's budget.

However, they now are pushing their members to call on the city council to make changes to the budget, since the recent plan Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney proposed Wednesday doesn’t fully fund the RPS budget requests.

“We need to be turning people out to city council meetings to make a lot of noise and wear red and really show up for RPS," said an organizer.

The REA is calling on its members to show up to speak at the next city council meeting on April 12.

They are also asking them to reach out to their council members and speak at budget public hearings.

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