A teacher has resigned and students protested Monday, both over the safety of Middle Creek High School’s Room 3320, where the ceiling has been leaking since late September.
Wake County school officials say the classroom needs repairs, but it does not contain mold, a possibility that has worried the teacher, students and parents.
Dejah Debon, a biology teacher who missed two weeks of work because of respiratory problems, resigned after being told she had to return to Room 3320. Administrators warned students, in surgical masks as they protested outside the classroom Monday, that they’d be marked absent if they remained in the hallway instead of returning to the room.
School officials say two environmental tests, including one conducted Friday by a firm hired by the district, showed no mold spores or visible signs of mold on surfaces in the classroom.
“The tests were conducted out of an abundance of caution because of the community’s concerns,” Lisa Luten, a Wake schools spokeswoman, said Tuesday.
In multiple letters to parents, Middle Creek High Principal Wade Martin has called the leak minor and said no risks to student or teacher health have been found.
Luten said that the school system’s environmental services department and a roofing firm determined Tuesday that the leak wasn’t due to the roof as originally thought but was caused by a joint. She said that the leak, weather permitting, is expected to be repaired this week.
But some of Debon’s students and their parents are unhappy with the way the situation has been handled and how long the leak has been an issue. An online petition was created last week asking Wake to take care of the leak at the school, near Optimist Farm and West Lake roads.
“I pray that there’s no mold issue in the classroom, but it begs the question why she’s sick when she enters the classroom but is fine at home and on weekends,” said Vicki Nizen, a parent of one of Debon’s students. “It also begs the question why you’re not doing anything about the leak in the classroom and debris falling from the ceiling.”
Debon, whose resignation goes into effect Friday, said Tuesday she was not allowed by Wake to talk about the situation. But in an email she sent to parents last week, Debon said she had to resign to protect her health.
Robyn Greenspan, whose son is one of Debon’s students, said some of the ceiling tiles in the room have collapsed and leaking has been an issue for more than 45 days.
“I am disgusted by all of this,” Greenspan said.
Nizen said that the sound of dripping water was so loud during the heavy rain in early October that Debon stuffed paper towels in the buckets to try to deaden the noise as students took exams.
Debon missed the last two weeks of October before returning to class Nov. 2. Upon her return, Dubon relocated her classes last week.
“She felt it was not safe for her students to be in the classroom, so she was actively looking for empty classrooms,” Nizen said.
Luten said the school couldn’t let Debon continue to use those other rooms because teachers needed them for their planning time. She also said those rooms were not suited for long-term use by biology classes.
Nizen said her daughter organized a quiet sit-in outside the classroom Monday. Luten said the students were told they had to return to the classroom or be marked absent because the substitute teacher couldn’t supervise the class with kids in the hallway.
Nizen said the situation has been badly handled by the school and is now putting students behind academically as they lack a permanent teacher.
“Whether it’s mold or not, it’s been actively leaking since Sept. 25,” Nizen said. “My child is in a classroom with water leaking. Now my child doesn’t have a teacher.”