Sewage backup closes Greenback School

Hugh G. Willett
Thursday, November 8, 2007

Greenback School was closed around midday Wednesday because of a sewage backup in the boy's bathroom on the high school side of the building.

"We decided it would be better to close the school for the rest of the week and make the repairs," Loudon County schools spokeswoman Nancy Carpenter said. "The school should be open on Monday."

It's not the first time the aging school has had plumbing problems, which some parents complain have not been repaired in a timely manner.

The school board - which last week voted to build a new pre-K to 12 school on property purchased on Morgantown road in Greenback - is expected to discuss other problems at the school, including heating and air-conditioning concerns, when it meets tonight at the courthouse annex building in Loudon.

A series of problems with toilets backing up, leaking or not flushing properly has plagued the school for the past few years, according to Greenback parent Lisa Russell, who has three children in the school.

After combing through maintenance records, Russell has documented a series of plumbing problems, some of which were not addressed for as long as three months after they were reported.

"In most of the cases it took more than a month, usually two months, to fix the problems with the toilets," she said. "That just can't be healthy for children."

Russell says she is not surprised that the situation has reached the point where the school has been shut down but wonders why it takes the school department so long to address health and safety issues.

"These are the people that we are entrusting with the safety of our children," she said.

The Greenback school has been on the school board's radar for the past few months because of complaints about mold, air quality, water quality, fire safety and general overcrowding.

School board member Bill Marcus has listed HVAC concerns at Greenback on the agenda for tonight's meeting.

Air-conditioning problems plagued the school during August, leading to the use of portable air conditioners that teachers say leak water that leads to mold.

Air quality experts also have expressed concerns that the aging HVAC system could be leaking dangerous levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide into the classrooms at Greenback.

"I have been reviewing air quality reports for Greenback and other schools in Loudon County, and I have grave concerns about the air quality," said Linda K. May, registered nurse, OSHA and EPA certified air quality inspector and president of LKM Health and Safety Consultants of Champaign, Ill.

May, who has recently been involved in air quality cases in schools in Houston, Texas, and Lafayette, La., said she is still reviewing the reports and is preparing an analysis of potential problems including air quality and mold found in Loudon County schools over the past five years.