Lexington parents demand school district release air quality report from Henry Clay High

Henry Clay High School teacher Nathan Spalding said a baby rat snake fell from his classroom ceiling Wednesday and landed on a desk phone. Spalding said a mouse fell from the ceiling Thursday in another classroom. Henry Clay is dealing with infestation problems, he said. (Nathan Spalding/Provided by Nathan Spalding)

For the second time in as many months, parents asked the Fayette school board on Monday to determine whether the air quality at Lexington’s Henry Clay High School is making kids sick.

The concerns follow problems in September, when teachers at Henry Clay High School said a snake and a mouse fell from the ceiling. Other infestations have been reported at the building that opened in the mid 1970’s.

On Monday, two people told the Fayette County Public Schools Board that the district should release an air quality report that was conducted at the school.

One of them was parent Farren Rupp-Shrensker, who was concerned that her sons who attend Henry Clay High School have become sick because of mold and other environmental problems at the school. While Rupp-Shrensker didn’t mention it in her public comments, her boys are the great-grandchildren of the late iconic University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball Coach Adolph Rupp.

“I regret that I have to be here this evening because you have failed to address my concerns regarding mold at Henry Clay High School,” Rupp-Shrensker said.

Her youngest son earned a 4.0 GPA last year, even though he missed 50 days of school because of illness and had been referred to an immunologist. She said he was healthy this summer until he returned to school.

He is allergic to mold.

Rupp-Shrensker said her other son who attends Henry Clay is sick almost as often as his brother and has been referred to an immunologist as well.

She said other students and teachers are also being affected.

Her youngest son was referred to an oncologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital who found that the repeated illnesses were likely due to environmental allergies, she said.

Mold was found in all of the classrooms that were tested at Henry Clay High School over fall break after she raised concerns, Rupp-Shrensker said.

Rupp-Shrensker said school board members haven’t responded to her questions about what they are going to do to mitigate the mold.

Fayette Superintendent Demetrus Liggins said in response to the concerns about Henry Clay’s air quality that “it just isn’t the case that there is elevated mold there that would cause illness.”

Donna Florence, a nurse whose grandchild attends Henry Clay, said at Monday night’s meeting that the school was a “detrimental” situation to the health of students and staff.

“This has gone on for far too long,” she said. Florence said there is mold on ceiling tiles.

“We clearly have an issue in this building that is significant,” said Florence. “It is ridiculous and it is very irresponsible.”

Florence made similar comments at an October school board meeting.

Florence said Monday that the district chief operating officer had returned her call, but no one from the superintendent’s office had called her back.

Both women have asked school district officials to post environmental inspections online, but say that hasn’t happened.

The Herald-Leader on November 14 requested environmental inspection reports under the Kentucky Open Records Act. The records release has been delayed by the district until December 7, it said in an email.

Liggins said at Monday’s meeting that he regretted anyone being sick for any reason.

However, he said a certified industrial hygienist said there was not a mold “problem” at Henry Clay. He said there is mold in every building, but it was not at a level that is dangerous.

“The health of our students are of critical importance,” Liggins said.