CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The pictures tell part of the story. Mold growing on ceiling tiles at Providence High School, mushrooms growing in classrooms at Bruns Academy, even rodent droppings and insects.
This picture was actually snapped by a teacher at North Mecklenburg High School.
Health issues such as these have some parents wondering if there is a bigger problem within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District.
"I think there is an issue with CMS altogether," said Miranda Ezell, who has a student in CMS. "I'm not sure what's going on, but I think a lot of our schools are failing in different areas."
The Mecklenburg County Health Department inspects school buildings once a year.
Each school gets a score, similar to what you see at a restaurant, although the building score is different and separate from the one for the school's cafeteria.
The scale looks like this:
- 90+ is an A grade.
- 80-89.5 is a B grade.
- 70-79.5 is a C grade.
Anything below 70 would be a failing grade.
Channel 9 went through every report since this January and found 27 CMS schools scored a B or a C grade.
The lowest score was at James Martin Middle School with a 74. It was cited for things like "a heavy accumulation of ants" in one room and a 'sink coming off the wall'.
At North Mecklenburg High School, inspectors found "live and dead roaches throughout the building." That school scored a 75.5.
Olympic High School scored a 79.5.
The county warned administrators to check for "possible dead creatures" under the mobile classrooms.
The report doesn't say what type of animal but does say there was a pungent smell in 4 rooms.
It turns out there is a link between all these schools. Seventy percent of the schools that scored below an A are Title I schools, where a high number of students come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Channel 9 shared our findings with former educator and County Commissioner Vilma Leake.
“It does not surprise me, and it should surprise me,” said Leake.
Leake was on the school board for years before becoming a Mecklenburg County commissioner. She said this is an ongoing problem.
“I've seen it, because I go. I go by these schools and in these schools,” Leake said.
She places the blame on the administration and the principals at the schools.
CMS sent Channel 9 the below statement:
"CMS Building Services works to provide a safe and environmentally healthy campus for all students and staff at all times. After a CMS building is inspected by Mecklenburg County Health Department, our teams work to address any and all issues cited. Some issues are addressed and corrected the same day as the health department report is issued. Some of our CMS buildings, primarily those in the center core of Charlotte, are aging buildings, some more than 50-years old and require on-going attention. Our teams are poised to respond to work orders as quickly as possible, prioritizing those which are immediate need areas. We make work orders for all issues. We treat these as urgent work orders with a response time of 48 hours. 87.5 is a B and while it is acceptable, our goal is all schools 90 or above. Our goal is to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for all CMS students, at all times."
County Commissioner Jim Puckett said CMS hasn't dealt with this problem for decades!
“I'm seeing, repeatedly, CMS just never seems to get over this, no matter what money we put into it,” said Puckett.
The county gives CMS tens of millions each year for maintenance.
Puckett wants a private company to take over janitorial services. He said the contract should spell out exactly what’s expected of the company.
Much of the city and county buildings are serviced by private companies and Puckett said thos buildings are cleaner.
“The jail is cleaner than many schools,” said Puckett.
When asked why he thinks Title I schools have some of the lowest scores, he said, “Is this another case of the bigotry of low expectations, that, somehow, poor kids are supposed to deal with dirt more than others?"
Meanwhile, parents who have children at some of those schools said CMS may need to provide more resources to ensure that children from disadvantaged backgrounds aren't at a disadvantage in the classroom.
“There is a lack. But I’m not sure if it’s the school, or maybe they need more help,” said Shaundra Sannon.
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