MOULTRIE -- Funston Elementary is scheduled for a renovation overhaul beginning at the end of the school year, including a metal-seamed roof -- and some parents and teachers say that's well-overdue.

Several complaints came to The Observer regarding a mold problem at Funston Elementary School. Most, if not all, were from educators who spoke on the condition of anonymity concerned about the contamination that has been a problem for years, they said.

Building maintenance staff ripped up the carpet in a kindergarten class last week and found a layer of mold beneath it, school officials said. Overhead were bowed and stained ceiling tiles that showed telltale signs of prolonged leakage.

Four large garbage bins were brought in Thursday at lunch to catch leaks through the classroom ceilings. At 2:30 p.m. the bins had accumulated about a half-inch of water and the floor not covered by the bins was wet.

Several air purifiers were immediately ordered to maintain air quality in the kindergarten wing and should arrive next week, Colquitt County Schools Assistant Superintendent Mickey Key said. Already, a dehumidifier has been placed in the leaky classroom to dry the air, and the students were relocated to the library since the leaking started, Funston Principal Lynn Clark said. When the room is dry, the children will return to it, she said.

Clark said the maintenance staff has always been prompt in responding to problems. The maintenance crew has heaped tar time and time again on the leaky sections of the roof only to see it leak again, she said.

Key equated it to like patching holes in a dam until a new one can be built.

"Until we put that sloped, free-standing metal roof on there, we're going to have problems," he said.

The anonymous callers said children and teachers have been sickened by the mold in the school.

Environmental Protection Agency representatives said that molds can trigger asthma attacks in allergic individuals on top of the allergic reactions in particularly sensitive people.

Studies on school children and mold exposure conclude that mold spurs respiratory infections, wheezing and prolonged coughing.

"We've had people sick, but how do you know?" Clark said.

Mold is expected in buildings as old as Funston Elementary, Key said.

The state cut back about $1.2 million from Colquitt County's allocations, Key said, and that drives home the importance of the school renovations being funded by the sales tax.

"Without that, we know that a lot of these renovations wouldn't be taking place," he said.

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