Parents of Sunset Lake Elementary students had plenty of questions for the Vicksburg Community School Board and Superintendent Aug. 12, 2019, after air quality issues were reported.
The Vicksburg Community School Board held the first school board meeting since at least 35 cases of unusual illnesses were reported at the Sunset Lake Elementary school. Parents were able to hear in person directly from Superintendent Keevin O’Neill and Assistant Superintendent Steven Goss about the handling of Sunset Lake’s air quality issues.
“There’s been a lot of guessing in this process, but we’re relying on the experts," O'Neill said. "We talked with NIOSH, they said do not spend another dime on anything until we come in the fall.”
O'Neill addressed the petition filed by district parents that now has hundreds of signatures, the press release composed by Sunset Lake teachers detailing their health issues, and the district's decision to take the advice of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, and hold off on all further inspections and work on the building until their inspectors arrive in the fall.
O'Neill reiterated the district's transparency throughout t he process, and commitment to parents and teachers that they are doing everything they can provide a safe learning environment at Sunset Lake.
O'Neill and Goss both said they are waiting for NIOSH to come in and determine what needs to be done. They are already following one NIOSH recommendation by replacing carpets throughout the building. They said the work is halfway done and should be complete by next week.
O'Neill said all air quality tests past and present at Sunset Lake have come back showing the air was safe, and said no tests, reports, or exports have ever linked the building's air quality to reported illnesses.
"I’ve never been given anything from a parent, or a doctor that says the building is causing this. Or they’re breathing something, that’s why this is causing. I don’t have that information, I don’t have data that says there’s that link," O'Neill said.
The air quality issues forced dozens of teachers to go public with health problems they’ve encountered at the school, including respiratory infections and reproductive issues. Along with the teachers, several students reported having daily migraine headaches. The issues forced one family to decide to move out of the district one year earlier then they’d planned.