Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools administrators and elected officials have been working to inform the community and parents about work planned for Ashley Academy for Cultural and Global Studies this summer, but concerned citizens are not satisfied with what’s being done.
Several members of a citizens group organized under the name #Action4Ashley spoke during the public comment portion of the Board of Education’s Tuesday meeting, reiterating disappointment that something had not been done sooner for the indoor air quality concerns at the school.
One person who spoke was Yolanda Pinkney, the mother of a student at Ashley who said her daughter did not have respiratory and other illnesses related to mold exposure until she started attending the school.
“I don’t know if I am allowed to say this, but I am pissed as a parent. I’m shaking, I am frustrated,” Pinkney said, standing before the board members with her daughter by her side.
Concerns over the indoor air quality have been a frequent talking point at board meetings for the last few months. A report on the air quality in April resulted in action from the board on May 1, approving $1.585 million to replace HVAC units.
Some are pleased with the direction the board and district are taking following the latest indoor air quality report, but others feel the issue was overlooked and should have been dealt with sooner — including the approval for a new Ashley school building.
“My child deserves to go to a school that is safe and in a healthy environment, period,” Pinkney said.
“There’s no replacing anything, you guys need to build a whole new school for these kids. These kids deserve this, and I feel like if we were in a different community, I feel like change would already have been made, you know?”
According to the Center for Disease Control’s website, mold can cause allergy and respiratory infections, and worsen conditions such as asthma, for those sensitive to it.
Yusef Suggs, executive director for Action 4 Now, said during public comment that he plans to file a suit for damages done in the coming days.
“The school year may be over, but the action is not complete,” said. “It’s insidious.”
The Rev. Alvin Carlisle, who is the president of the local NAACP chapter, said there has been more dialogue with district officials and board members in the last few weeks, but there are still plenty of issues to discuss.
“Our hopes are there needs to be a long-term fix, and that building is in bad shape and I think everyone has accepted that,” he said.
Regarding the new HVAC units, Carlisle said he feels like that is a move in the right direction for now given the current situation, but that more should have been done earlier.
“That building should have been replaced a long time ago,” he said. “Any repairs are really just putting a Band-Aid on what essentially is a gaping wound.”
Board vice-chairman Robert Barr announced prior to public comment that in addition to the ventilation work scheduled for this summer, they would have opportunities for parents and the public to see the progress.
“As the work begins we will update the community through social media and our WSFC-Schools website,” he said. “Parents and community are always welcome to come to Ashley and see the updates.”
Barr said during the meeting they have met in groups with community leaders and parents to help build trust with those who have expressed concerns about Ashley.
“Now moving forward, we are considering ways to involve the faculty, parents and the community in sharing how we plan on keeping students safe,” he said.