by: Scott Wickersham Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A man hired by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to make sure the children were safe came to Whistleblower 9 to investigate mold and air-quality concerns at the schools.
The man said CMS is not telling parents about a serious mold issues in its schools.
Whistleblower 9 started digging and found more than 70 cases of mold in CMS schools in the past three years and, in most cases, parents were never notified.
Brian Kasher is a nationally known expert in mold and air quality.
He spent seven years as head of environmental safety for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Kasher said he quit CMS in 2012 because officials there told him to stop openly sharing information about mold.
"Ultimately, I was directed to the point where I could not communicate the findings of my tests, with zone principals, superintendents or parents," he said.
One example: mold found at a mobile classroom at Clear Creek Elementary School on Albemarle Road.
Channel 9 uncovered pictures of black mold growing in the walls.
When Whistleblower 9 first investigated last year, CMS officials said it was just water damage.
Kasher said they knew it was much more.
"Every time we looked closer, it grew and grew until literally a whole side of the building was impacted," Kasher said.
"At this time, were there still kids going in there?" Whistleblower 9 asked.
"Absolutely. Children, two faculty members that had aggravated respiratory ailments," Kasher said.
He said it was treated as a "maintenance project," and only when Whistleblower 9 uncovered documents that showed workers were removing mold did CMS admit it.
After weeks of digging through stacks of CMS records, Eyewitness News found Clear Creek is not the only case.
Whistleblower 9 discovered more than 3,200 work orders for things like mold and mildew, 242 turned into confirmed cases of mold at 77 schools.
Under CMS policy, there was no mass communication to parents.
Channel 9 asked the man in charge of CMS buildings why not. Guy Chamberlain said CMS takes mold complaints seriously, and responds within hours and cleans it up in days.
It doesn't always tell parents.
"I do not think it's in the public's interest to know of every single mold growth we discover, because typically when it's found, it is cleaned up and it's gone," Chamberlain said.
Many cases occurred at some of the 860 mobile classrooms currently in use.
The district admits it is at higher risk for mold because classrooms don't have dehumidifiers -- which "increases the potential for excessive moisture that can result in mold."
Chamberlain said CMS has been addressing that.
"We have bought and rented dehumidifiers," he said.
Kasher wants more to be done.
He wants CMS to give parents information on the buildings where children spend hours every day.
"They need to know so they can take action. Share that information with doctors so they can better diagnose and prescribe remedies," he said.
Because of our investigation, CMS officials said they are making changes.
Kasher said since there is no CMS communication plan on mold, parents need to take the initiative, especially if a child is having respiratory issues at school and nowhere else.
Call the principal to ask if the school has had reports of mold, and make sure CMS starts a work order number for your complaint.
Kasher said that way, it will be entered into their system, will be seen by higher-ups and you can track the response to it.
See all the 9 Investigates stories from Eyewitness News by clicking here.
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