‘My breathing was challenged,’ admits Marlboro County superintendent of mold issue

MARLBORO, SC (WBTW) – The Marlboro County School Board met Monday night to discuss ongoing mold problems in Bennettsville Intermediate School.

Parents filled Marlboro County High School’s library to listen to what the acting superintendent and school board had to say about mold found in Bennettsville Intermediate School.

Five people spoke during the open session portion of the meeting, one of them was Keith Brewington. He said his eight-year-old daughter is a third-grader at Bennettsville Intermediate and doesn’t want her going back to a mold-filled school.

“I have a lot of concerns with her going back to that school because the school is sick, the staff and the students are sick, and it’s time for our board to take decisive action,” he said.

Brewington said he wants the board to consider the reconfiguration plan it proposed at an April meeting. The plan would move current Bennettsville Intermediate School students to Marlboro County High School.

“It’s appalling that our board members are not doing more than they are elected to do,” said Brewington. “Right now I really want them to get up off their butts and close that school now.”

He said the upcoming holiday breaks would give the board time to put the reconfiguration plan into action.

“Get everything out, do the reconfiguration, level the school, and make a referendum,” he said. “The community can’t grow if we don’t have decent, twenty-first century schools; we have to build a new school.”

However, School Board Chair Lucy Parsons said things aren’t that simple.

“We can’t go build a new school, we’re limited to the assessed value of the county,” she explained. “It’s not a matter of doing another penny sales tax because that’s not supported by the ownership of property in the county.”

She said she doesn’t think the reconfiguration plan is ideal because it’s impossible to please everyone in the community.

“If we start to do that then there will be other people saying they don’t want us to do it because they don’t want third graders in the high school,” said Parsons.

The Chairwoman said there is currently mold at Marlboro County High School, but the hallway that it’s in is closed off to students and staff. She said the report that was done that found the mold in Bennettsville Intermediate showed the amount of mold outside was higher than it was inside.

“Where they (the community) want them (the students) to go has mold and where they don’t want them to be does not have mold that’s as high as outdoors,” Parsons said.

Former Marlboro County School Board member and parent Deborah Peterkin said it doesn’t matter how much mold was found, action must be taken. She said her son went to Blenhiem Elementary Middle School when that Marlboro County school had a mold problem.

“My baby constantly got sick and kept getting sicker and sicker,” she said. “He would pass out, I couldn’t wake him up for hours.”

Peterkin said after constantly taking her son to the doctor’s office, she found out he was allergic to mold. She said that’s when she took the issue to the school board and was told that her son’s school didn’t have mold. Peterkin said she went to the meeting Monday night to warn parents about her story and encourage them to speak up to the board.

“This is a life and death situation and that’s why I’m here,” she said. “We can’t keep kicking the bucket down the road and waiting on someone else to fix it; the problem needs to be fixed now.”

Acting Superintendent, Dr. John Lane, said he wants the best for all of the children in the district and will take what the public said Monday night into consideration to create a solution.

“The board has asked me to contact OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and have them come in and give us their accounting of what they feel is either happening or not happening at the school as far as health and safety issues are concerned,” said the Acting Superintendent.

Dr. Lane said he spent a week at Bennettsville intermediate School after he heard the concerns of parents.

“I do know that the first day my breathing was challenged, but as the week progressed, and it could be that perhaps I became adjusted to it, I don’t know, but by the end of the week I was okay,” he said.

Dr. Lane said the school board will review the recommendations brought to it by parents, teachers and staff members Monday night. He said the board plans to have a solution on Nov. 27.