Elizabeth DeWitt, from the Clark County Combined Health District, checks the cabinets under a classroom pet as she inspects Kenwood Elementary Friday, March 23, 2018. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Keeping kids safe: How Clark County’s health department inspects area schools, and what it finds

Annual inspections of Clark County schools by the health department are an important part of protecting more than 20,000 students in the county, officials said.

The inspections revealed a number of minor issues like bumps in carpet, painting needs, HVAC issues and bookshelves not properly secured to walls or floors, according to the reports completed since December and reviewed by the Springfield News-Sun. For example, an inspection report notes that a sink in a men’s restroom at Springfield High School was not working in December 2017.

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However, the inspections can also reveal bigger issues. At Northridge School in the Northeastern Local Schools district, constant roof leaks prompted the Clark County Combined Health District to attach an addendum to the school’s inspection.

“The health district is rightfully concerned about the negative effects on the school structure caused by chronic roof leaks and the possible negative effects on staff and student health caused by chronic damp conditions, offensive odors and mold growth,” the report says.

“The school appears to have a viable plan to provide a roof repair. Efforts to control water and humidity levels until a repair can be arranged appear adequate. The conditions in the affected areas appear inconvenient and unattractive but do not appear to pose a health threat to the occupants of the classrooms.”

The district is working to fix the problems, Northeastern Superintendent John Kronour said.

“We have made patches to the Northridge roof,” Kronour said. “We will be doing some tear-off and replacement at that location this summer when an infrared scan is completed.”

The district overall has spent thousands of dollars to fix and repair roofs in the district, Kronour has said, but it’s an issue that persists.

The Springfield News-Sun annually submits public records requests to the health district seeking information on the cleanliness and conditions of local schools.

This year, the Springfield News-Sun toured Kenwood Elementary School in the Springfield City School District during its inspection in March to see how the health district inspects Clark County’s 40 schools that about 20,000 students attend.

“Health department inspections are necessary and welcomed by the Springfield City School District,” SCSD said in a statement. “While our administration conducts regularly scheduled inspections, teaming with agencies gives us the opportunity to resolve irregularities quickly.”

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School officials typically want the health district to come in and give them an inspection to make sure they are doing the right things to keep kids safe, Clark County Combined Health District Director of Environmental Health Larry Shaffer said.

“There have been some rooms in the county that have had problems,” Shaffer said. “But generally the schools want to take steps to take care of anything. They want the best for their students.”

How schools are inspected

One classroom at a time, Clark County Health Inspector Elizabeth DeWitt checked for dust, the sturdiness of cabinets and televisions and for any other dangerous items that may have been left out at Kenwood Elementary School.

There are no longer set standards schools must meet to either pass or fail, Shaffer said, but health district professionals can give good advice to schools to protect students.

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“We as the health department and sanitarians have good practical knowledge of how to keep a school safe and clean,” Shaffer said.

The health division inspects every school in the county twice a year, Shaffer said.

The health inspector tries to touch as much as possible to make sure the surfaces are clean. They search for any odors that might be concerning. They look to see if anything appears out of place or if anything dangerous is within reach of students that shouldn’t be.

They also talk to employees who work in the spaces.

“The school inspection is just like any other inspection, we want to at least talk to the people who are in the building and using the building, that way we get an understanding how the building is used and what goes on in here,” Shaffer said.

The school inspector will also check the nursing stations, the restrooms, locker rooms, gymnasiums, auditoriums, custodial closets, mechanical rooms, playgrounds and every other part of the school to make sure students and staff don’t face any danger.

“It’s important work,” Shaffer said. “Our job is to make sure parents can feel like their kids are safe at school.”

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Inspection reports

The Springfield News-Sun requested and received the most recent school inspection reports from the health district. Notable parts of those inspections are below, and the full inspection report will be made available on SpringfieldNewsSun.com this week.

Springfield City Schools

Keifer Academy, Clark Early Learning Center and Schaefer Middle School had no observations listed other than “nice facility” in their reports. The rest of the schools only had minor issues that the inspector asked the school to take a look at like a loose mouthpiece on a water fountain or a science lab table without hot water.

“In the SCSD, we have a team of custodians who take great pride in the cleanliness and safety of our state-of the-art facilities,” the school said in a statement . “This team supports our teachers as it relates to the classroom environment and, over the years, become familiar, friendly faces to our students.”

Clark-Shawnee Local

Inspectors found torn wall mats in the gymnasium of Shawnee High School and Possum School, but those were the only issues listed for both schools.

The inspection report for Possum shows the inspector observed carpet in the upstairs computer room to be stretched, which was causing bumps in the carpet, according to the inspection reports.

“It is recommended that the carpet be stretched so it is tight fitting or that it be removed,” the report says.

There was also a concern of peeling paint throughout the school, and the report recommended that it be scraped off and repainted.

There were no violations observed at Reid School.

Greenon Local Schools

Inspectors found some sinks in the Greenon High School building were not producing hot water, the reports say. The hot water heater at the high school was replaced, Silvus said.

At Indian Valley, inspectors found that some bookshelves were not secured and could tip, according to the inspection reports. Silvus said the school is working on getting all the shelves secured.

“We continue to work with the health department to provide a safe and clean environment for our students and staff,” Greenon Superintendent Brad Silvus said. “We will continue to do so throughout the transition to our new facilities.”

Northeastern Local Schools

Several issues were noted at Northeastern Local Schools. The leaking roofs prompted the additional addendum.

At Kenton Ridge High School, the inspector said flammable objects were stored outside a flammable materials cabinet.

“It is strongly recommended that this repeat violation be addressed immediately to avoid the risk of fire, personal injury, liability associated with improperly-stored flammable materials,” the report says.

The issue is being fixed, Kronour said.

Inspection reports for Northeastern High School showed that there were worn carpeting, worn paint and a sagging ceiling tile.

“Overall, as a district, we never want to have issues show up on inspection reports,” Kronour said. “We do our best to take care of the issues as soon as we are made aware of what the issues are.”

Northwestern Local Schools

The 2018 inspection reports for Northwestern did not list many issues with the schools.

In the junior/senior high school, the inspector noted that a pile of cardboard was falling over and eyewash stations needed to be tested more regularly.

In the elementary school, the inspector noted that a water fountain was cresting lower than recommended and an air freshener that could cause allergies was used in a classroom.

Southeastern Local Schools

The Southeastern school district has two schools, and one of them had no observations.

Miami View received no observations from the health district on its report.

Southeastern High School had a basement storage area that was cluttered, according to the inspection report.

“It is recommended that the storage area be cleaned and all nonessential, unnecessary items be discarded or stored in another area,” the report says.

Tecumseh Local Schools

The district’s three elementary schools, New Carlisle Elementary, Park Layne and Donnelsville Elementary all had no observations on their recent inspections.

Tecumseh Middle School had few issues, including weather stripping on exit doors being damaged.

In Tecumseh High School, the inspection report said that some floor tiles between the cafeteria and shop hall were damaged.

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