Teacher: 'they are terrified to go back there' | Marshall School Board votes to shut down BMS annex due to health concerns

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Classes will not be held next school year at the Bueker Middle School annex after the Marshall Board of Education voted Tuesday, June 25, to shut it down to students and teachers due to health concerns. (Carlos Restrepo/Democrat-News)

The Marshall Board of Education unanimously voted to shut down the Bueker Middle School annex building due to major health concerns raised by Superintendent Ryan Huff. Primary concerns include mold and asbestos, as discussed at the board's Tuesday, June 25, meeting.

The annex, which houses roughly 150 students, will not be torn down immediately. However, classes will be held in three temporary trailer classrooms, which will cost the district $21,000.

About 60 years ago, the BMS annex next to the school along Jefferson Avenue was erected as a temporary structure to house more students at the school.

Several tax levy propositions for new school buildings in the district would have removed the annex. Those propositions failed, and health concerns are on the rise.

Huff said the because of the annex's age, the school most likely knew the facility had asbestos. He said the hazardous mineral was discovered underneath tile floors after tests were administered.

"The problem there is that it's fine and safe as long as it is not being disturbed," Huff said. "But the floor is so old that the tile is cracking up and there are chunks coming off. It becomes a health hazard."

The issue surfaced after word that a teacher -- one who taught in the annex for some time -- was recently diagnosed with cancer. She was not the first, but the fifth teacher diagnosed with the disease.

"We had several teachers who have worked in that building the entire or most of their careers who have developed cancer of some sort or another," Huff said. " ... It's becoming a concern that, 'Is the annex toxic of some kind or is it causing cancer?'"

After he heard the news, Huff contacted the Missouri Department of Health. Because the types of cancer of the five teachers are not the same, the health department said the annex was not considered a "cancer cluster."

"Now, are there air quality issues out in the annex? That's yet to be seen," Huff said. "We know that we have issues with the asbestos flooring, which we do know asbestos causes cancer, but it's limited to the lungs through mesothelioma and that's the limit of it. That's not good, so we need to deal with that issue."

In addition to the asbestos, the building also has mold problems, which he said should disappear after recent roof leaks are fixed. He said the Center for Disease Control and the Missouri Department of health were willing to test the building for air quality, but explained the only way to test the building was while teachers and students were inside.

"They told me they cannot do that until they actually get people in the classrooms and actually working in those classrooms because they have to check for carbon dioxide levels and all those things," Huff said. "You won't have the same levels of carbon dioxide in there unless there are kids in there, so I can't get those tests done until we are actually back in school and actually using the facility."

The board, however, decided to lease the temporary trailers rather than open the annex to staff and students again.

"I don't think we put kids back in that building," said board member Sherrie Souffer. "Or the teachers."

Board member Mike Mills said in the four years he has been with the school district, this issue has surfaced annually.

"I just think the annex should be gone," Mills said.

Board member Douglas Koehn said he wished the school could find a permanent solution to the issue, which Huff said would have to come in the form of voters realizing the need for the district to have new buildings.

"It seems like we just keep putting a lot of money into a short-term fix," he said.

A couple of teachers in attendance Tuesday teared up as they spoke about their fear of having to teach at the annex.

"[Teachers] are terrified to go back there," said Elaine Kelly, fifth-grade teacher at Bueker. "They are afraid for their health. They are more than happy to live in a trailer. That's better than what we have."

Contact Carlos Restrepo at crestrepo@marshallnews.com

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  • This is the tip of the iceberg. I hope Marshall voters can find it in their hearts to support the school bond now. We are throwing money into bad buildings when we could be building new ones.

    -- Posted by Pasta on Wed, Jun 26, 2013, at 7:00 AM
  • I agree with you Pasta . This whole article makes me sick and mad .My heart goes out to the teachers that are ill from this annex building . I voted yes to build a new school . I have kids that go to BMS . My kids come home and tell me at least once a week about something that broke or stopped working while in class .I know the other schools in town also need work . It's really a shame that this so called community couldn't come together enough to help out the kids . Maybe are grandchildren will get the chance for a new school some day . Wishful thinking I guess .

    -- Posted by ambsun on Wed, Jun 26, 2013, at 7:48 AM
  • I agree the annex is bad, but mold has also been found many times growing on desks in the middle school. My sons both had terrible headaches when going to school there, more in the main building than when they were in 5th grade (annex). I know it has a great auditorium, but I really think Bueker is the first school which should be replaced, followed by the elemenary buildings. I would love to know how much we have spent "repairing" BMS in the last 30 years. It's money that could have been used toward new schools.

    -- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Wed, Jun 26, 2013, at 8:46 AM
  • Please look around people, these buildings are outdated and expensive to maintain. They are not energy efficient and lack amenities that many schools had last century, little a long this century. Why would anyone want to relocate their family here...not for the great schools. You want your children and grandchildren to have a good educational experience? It starts with the very door they walk through. Time to pass a bond issue and build new buildings instead putting band-aids on what we have!

    -- Posted by Marshall Scouts on Wed, Jun 26, 2013, at 10:46 AM
  • Hopefully people can see this as a sign and will care enough about their children to vote for new schools. I have voted yes each time and saddens me when it doesn't pass. Not only do we need to considered this health issue we also need to consider the issue of safety which I don't believe our schools would pass even with the school system taking every precaution they can.

    -- Posted by long time citizen on Wed, Jun 26, 2013, at 10:55 AM
  • Yes, it would be a lot less than $30 million all buildings could probably be fixed up. However, I think new buildings would be a lot better for more than just the reason of what's on the table now. A school that would house K-8 would be great or at least an area where all schools housing K-8 were all together. There are entirely too many schools in this town. I've lived here for 41 years and my children went to school here but I wouldn't be an outsider and move here especially when it comes to the school system.

    -- Posted by wod1951 on Wed, Jun 26, 2013, at 11:03 AM
  • It's sad to say, but I can think of a lot of teachers through the years that have had, have, or have passed away from cancer that were 5th grade teachers in Marshall. I don't know if the annex is the reason, but it does make one think!

    -- Posted by RedAngel on Wed, Jun 26, 2013, at 12:21 PM
  • Smart Dog I believe you misstated. Mesothelioma is only caused by exposure to asbestos, however other cancers including colorectal and gastrointestinal can also be linked to asbestos exposure. In other words, if you have mesothelioma, you were exposed to asbestos, but if you have another cancer it might be the result of asbestos.

    -- Posted by inthemiddle on Wed, Jun 26, 2013, at 3:34 PM
  • Adding on to or renovating existing buildings is NOT an option. You do not get a proposal stating that as an option because it would take more than 30 million to renovate those buildings.

    Why would we even spend $ 10 million to fix the horrible buildings. Best case they are still horrible buildings that have been made functional.

    The pick up and drop off system at most of the schools is terrifing. Its amazing no child is ever hurt or lost.

    This issue is nothing like fixing a basement. There are major issues in every building. Everyone of the schools has asbestos. The moment significant removation begins, that asbestos must be remediated if it is at all disturbed.

    We are not talking about a leaky basement. I'm sure you have been in these buildings. With the exception of the high school, none of these buildings would be considered appropraite educational enviornments under todays laws. They are grandfathered in due to their age.

    Again once we start renovating them, the law states that they have to be brought to standards in all areas. Can't be done and why would we even consider it.

    I can not believe that the school district is not sued regularly for the endangerment of children, OSHA and ADA violations. The staff does the best they can but it is not possible with the buildings they have to work with.

    The only building in the district that should not be demolished is the High School.

    -- Posted by Mrs. on Wed, Jun 26, 2013, at 3:53 PM
  • They closed the annex down but not the school?!! Have you seen the school it's horrible!!! Mold EVERYWHERE, tile coming off floors, lots of holes in the ceilings, holes in the walls it's ridiculous!!! Ellen Lance took photos from the inside if her sons classroom. No wonder her son has been sick with horrible allergy problem! She would be happy to share the photos with anyone who wants to see. We have GOT to get new schools every one of them is SO old and we have got to start somewhere!!! I fear for my and everyones children's health! :(

    -- Posted by MirandaFuchs on Wed, Jun 26, 2013, at 5:08 PM
  • Lets shut them down one at a time so we have no choice but to build the new school that some have wanted for years.

    How about the school board comes to reality and puts up a proposal about half price of what they were wanting, and maybe you will get enough support from the community to get it done.

    -- Posted by sw3177 on Wed, Jun 26, 2013, at 10:09 PM
  • Great idea, let them ask for half of what they determined is needed so that the finished product is done cheap and won't last. Solid plan indeed.

    -- Posted by huh? on Thu, Jun 27, 2013, at 12:13 PM
  • 60 years?! I believe that no longer falls into the category of a "temporary structure." Heck by that definition, MHS could be considered a temporary structure because it is still less than 40 years old.

    -- Posted by inthemiddle on Thu, Jun 27, 2013, at 1:09 PM
  • Good grief! Who cares what end of town a new school would go....really because it was close to the Country Club it wasn't acceptable? A school with issues like those in the article above shouldn't exist! We need a new school.

    -- Posted by litlmissme on Thu, Jun 27, 2013, at 9:04 PM
  • I agree with a point below, marshall doesn't have the commercial tax base to support a large high dollar school like the one built in Sedalia. I myself would vote for a new school if they would scale back, but I'm not going to vote myself out of my home and vehicle with sky rocketing tax increases.

    -- Posted by Marshallman1911 on Thu, Jun 27, 2013, at 10:29 PM
  • What is high dollar about Sedalia's high school? There is tremendous wasted space in that building and is terribly simple in design. I have been there numerous times and don't see anything "high dollar" about it. If it is, then they did not get their money's worth out of it.

    -- Posted by inthemiddle on Fri, Jun 28, 2013, at 12:12 PM
  • Once again the "new" school issue comes up again. Just in time for voting on it. 20 years ago the annex had problems with mold and flooring while my children were there. Now we as tax payers are buying the ground already. But the biggest issue I feel is what will happen to Benton, southeast, Eastwood, and now the middle school. Will it be like the old hospital and everyone just hopes it goes away? I'm sure the once lovely neighborhood of that area loves the view of the birds and other various animals going in and out of a once wonderful old building. Come on people till I hear ideas on what to do with the "old" buildings I will continue to voice my thoughts on a new school.

    -- Posted by left n sf on Mon, Jul 1, 2013, at 11:04 AM
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