DHEC to inspect Aiken Co. schools for safety, health violations

News 12 at First at Five / Tuesday, July 3, 2012

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- School's out for the summer, but there could be commotion inside six Aiken County schools, as one parent is raising issues about safety.

"This is a copy of the actual letter that was sent to her," he said, flipping through a stack of documents.

Besides the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Tim Bledsoe, who lives in North Augusta, also contacted the Operational Safety and Health Administration.

He says OSHA sent a letter to Aiken County Schools Superintendent Dr. Beth Everitt. She only has 15 days to respond to Bledsoe's laundry list of allegations.

"They showed us pictures of broken toilets, toilets that had the yellow caution tape in front of them so they couldn't be used," Bledsoe said. "I have actually seen with my own eyes where there are loose wiring just haphazardly run across the outside of the walls."

He says the main problem areas are Aiken High School, North Augusta High School, Leavelle McCampbell Middle School, Jackson Middle School, Ridge Spring-Monetta Elementary/Middle School and New Ellenton Middle School.

Back in 2010, News 12 shot video of conditions inside Ridge Spring-Monetta. Our cameras documented exposed wiring, broken toilets and even a trough-like urinal.

"Parents that didn't go into these schools probably never even realized that they were in that bad of a need of repair. It was the administrators and the board that brought the problem before us," Bledsoe said.

However, voters shot down a $236 million bond referendum in 2010 to renovate the six schools. Since then, the school board has developed a five-year plan to make some improvements. Meanwhile, Bledsoe wants faster repairs, and he wants DHEC and OSHA's input on whether the six school buildings are safe and healthy or not.

Deputy Superintendent David Caver says they'll gladly comply with the DHEC inspections. He says DHEC inspects the schools on a regular basis anyway.

There is one problem, though. The county was weighing the possibility of a one-cent sales tax to help fund more repairs and expansions.

Caver says that won't be possible this year. It would have required a change in the law from Columbia.


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