By STANLEY DUNLAP
February 16, 2010
The Weakley County Board of Education approved settlement costs in a three-year dispute over whether mold caused health issues at two of its schools.
On Monday afternoon, the school board unanimously approved transferring $695,000 from its undesignated fund balance to settle a lawsuit filed by two families of students. The funds include the proposed mediation settlement reached last month and other related expenditures at Westview High School.
Director of Schools Randy Frazier said the district could release a breakdown of the figures after final approval is given on the tentative agreement. Once the litigation is finalized, a statement would be given about the lawsuits, said Frazier, who was selected as head of the county schools this school year.
“This is only phase one,” Frazier said after Monday’s meeting. “It has to go to the County Commission (tonight), and if it’s passed, it will need to be approved by (Circuit Court) Judge William Acree in March.
“If it’s not passed (tonight), then we’re back to square one.”
The settlement was agreed upon during mediation last month between the school district and the Memphis-based firm Parrish & Shaw.
A third neutral party will perform a final inspection of Westview and Martin Middle School after an agreement becomes official.
In 2007, Richard and Julie Joost filed a lawsuit on behalf of their son. They claimed he dealt with an array of medical symptoms such as respiratory infections, sinus infections and ear infections while attending Westview.
That December another parent, Carol Hinman, filed a lawsuit saying her two children had also been made ill by mold inside the high school.
The original lawsuit led to more than 80 students holding a demonstration in protest of the mold problem at Westview.
Acree decided not to approve injunction requests from the plaintiffs asking that they be shut down until the mold problem was remedied.
In May 2008, Acree approved the school board’s plan for addressing the potential mold problems at the two schools. That included general housekeeping such as removing dust from some areas that could be sources of mold at Martin Middle and replacing insulation on pipes at Westview.
During the ongoing litigation, claims were made by the plantiffs’ attorneys that the school board knew of mold issues at Westview as early as 1998.
An amended complaint from last year said the school board filed a lawsuit against a construction company after noticing substantial moisture problems and a high humidity level inside the high school.
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