Parents and teachers voice concerns over foul odor in Summersville Elementary

SUMMERSVILLE, WV (WOAY) – Many concerned parents have reached out to us about the foul odor coming from Summersville Elementary School. Since September, the school has closed twice to investigate the problem.

On Monday night, Nicholas County school officials stood before a cafeteria full of concerned parents, teachers, and staff to address the issue and talk solutions.

One of those concerned parents in the crowd was Reanna Brown, a parent of a third-grader, who says her son comes home once a week with a headache complaining about the smell in his school.

“We have gotten so many different explanations on what’s causing the smell,” Brown said.  “And we don’t know exactly what it is because they keep changing what the smell, what’s causing the odor. We just want to know for sure. We would like to know and would like to see proof of what’s causing the odor and why it keeps coming and why it can’t be prevented.”

According to Nicholas County Superintendent Dr. Donna Burge-Tetrick, each time it’s been a different source.

Back in September, they fixed an old exhaust fan. In October, screws in a bathroom changing station punctured an exhaust pipe. When the smell came back again recently, the state board’s engineers and maintenance crew determined it was the old, tectum ceiling in the 70-year-old building.

“When it gets wet and in the drying process, it starts to leave an odor,” Dr. Burge-Tetrick said. “And of course everybody describes the odor differently. Some describe it as a musty smell, some as a natural gas smell, some as a rotten animal.”

Based on the investigations done, they shared with the parents that the smell is not believed to be toxic and it is not caused by sewer, as some feared, but they will replace the ceilings to hopefully get rid of it.

For the parents who still weren’t pleased, the superintendent invited the principals of all other elementary schools to come and sign transfer forms, if desired.

“Even though the smell is harmless, I don’t want anyone to have to sit through that,” Dr. Burge-Tetrick said. “It’s only been one classroom to my knowledge with the latest repairs, and that classroom has been moved, and it’s a small section here in the hallway here at the corner of the gym.”

Summersville Elementary School will be closed Tuesday, November 18, to do more tests on the other side of the building to make sure it is only the old ceilings giving off the smell.

“We just want to know what’s causing it and we want to see proof that it’s not something that’s going to hurt our kids in any way or the adults, even the teachers,” Brown said. “We just want to make sure that everybody is okay and that whatever’s causing the odor, we just want to get it fixed.” 

Tyler Barker
Tyler Barker is currently the News Director and Digital Content Manager for WOAY-TV. He was promoted to this job in Mid-November. He still will fill in on weather from time to time. You can follow Tyler on Facebook and Twitter @wxtylerb. Have any news tips or weather questions? Email him at tbarker@woay.com