Outcry over mold in Cherokee Co. Schools prompts testing

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CHEROKEE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – A Spartanburg microbiologist has taken his concerns over mold in the Cherokee County School District public with lab results showing toxic mold in classrooms.

Reaction from Donnie Patterson’s online post has prompted the school district to order air quality testing in all 21 buildings from elementary to high school.

The developments have caused an uproar within the schools.

Superintendent Dr. Quincie Moore said Wednesday after the story hit local media and parents started calling she decided to ask inspectors hired by the district to expedite air quality results from any schools already tested.

Full air quality test results aren’t expected for another two weeks.

It started last week when Patterson, who attended Cherokee County Schools and has family members who work for the district, said he felt he had no choice but to “blow the whistle” on the schools where his young nieces attend and others.

“I feel like I’m the male Erin Brockovich of Cherokee County right now,” said Patterson.

That feeling Patterson said comes from the response his Facebook post on Oct. 9 showing a photo of a ceiling tile covered in mold.

Patterson said the sample came from a school he did not want to disclose the name of in order to protect the teacher who gave it to him.

“I took to social media because I wanted people to know this happens. I don’t want anybody to be at the doctor confused or scared,” said Patterson.

Patterson used his own lab to test the samples he said came from multiple schools. All of them, he said, were given to him by concerned teachers.

Some of those teachers, Patterson said, have stories of falling ill and being afraid to report concerns to the district offices out of fear for their jobs.

Superintendent Moore disputed Patterson’s claim saying teachers are encouraged to report health and safety concerns.

“To think that anybody might feel unnerved to report something..that bothers me most because we may have a problem,” said Moore.

Patterson said over 100 people have reached out to him with stories of mysterious illnesses and photos of mold in the classrooms and hallways.

Patterson shared several of the photos with 7News.

He said a student snapped some at Blacksburg High School Wednesday and they appear to show visible mold near an air unit.

At Granard Middle School, one of the schools Patterson claims to have some of the worst mold problems, pictures taken this week show mold growing in between floor tiles.

On the ceiling shown in another picture Patterson suspects there’s toxic death mold, known to kill horses and cattle.

Patterson said photos taken in August at Gaffney High School show mold in student lockers.

Superintendent Moore said many buildings in the district are old but safe and said when air quality and mold concerns come up they’re addressed.

“The safety of the children is the most important thing to me,” said Moore.

Moore told 7News in an interview at district offices Wednesday that Patterson has never approached her about his lab results and concerns he posted online.

Patterson said he has heard from at least 6 teachers who believe they’ve gotten sick because of mold in their classrooms.

Moore said even as recent as this school year a teacher has approached her about mold concerns. She said that particular issue was corrected.

Full results from the air quality company the district hired are expected back in two weeks.

7News will continue to follow the story.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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