News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Athens school board has big decision on Brookhill

How Athens decided to build Brookhill Elementary School on what is now a controversial site is as interesting as the maladies that beset teachers and students.

The school is on Section 16 of the township — land Congress set aside in the 1700s for public education. Falling within Athens city limits, the city built the school in 1989 on the education legacy forefathers handed down to the states.

The land was attractive as a school site because it was free. Now that gift doesn't look so free as the school continues to have a fungus problem that may or may not have to do with the soil, which is said to be swampland.

Whether the school land, established by geometric lottery, was a good building site is overshadowed by the ailments of those who spend time there.

The school closed for 52 days in 2000 while teachers cleaned textbooks after tests found mold and fungus in the air.

The school board spent close to $1 million to correct problems, but officials have a nagging suspicion they still may have a sick building.

Principal Janet Poole had surgery for polyps on her vocal cords and doctors told her to stay away from the school. Parents associate their children's nosebleeds, sinus infections and other respiratory problems with the school.

It will be no easy decision for the school board to declare the building unfit for students after extensive modifications. Hopefully, results of further testing this week will give better clues as to the problems and how to correct them.

If not, the school board might have to raze an otherwise perfectly good building.

But there is always the possibility that the persistent heath problems of those at the school are as happenstance as the location of the free Section 16 land.

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