MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – A teacher at the Charleston County School District is blaming health issues on the air quality inside her school, and she is not alone.
Kirsten Bowman has taught at Whitesides Elementary School for five years now. She said when she moved to a new classroom a few years ago, she began to experience headaches and respiratory issues.
“Finally, I just got to the point where I was like ‘this is just not normal.’ In the summers my headaches would go away, I would not have fatigue, I would be fine,” Bowman told News 2.
The longtime teacher said many other educators in the building share the same concerns and she has even received several emails from parents who noticed similar ailments in their child.
According to Bowman, she has been in constant contact with administration, and they’ve been great with aiding.
However, this year her fourth graders’ symptoms caught Bowman’s attention.
“I just noticed the kids were all sniffling and runny nose and like lethargic and just didn’t have the energy that a bunch of 9-10-year-olds should have,” Bowman said.
She said she met with the school’s Facilities team earlier this month to address her worries before they checked certain classrooms last week.
CCSD leaders notified families the building’s carbon dioxide levels were checked last week, and in some locations, came back as higher than what is typically seen in indoor settings. District leaders assured the levels were still well within OSHA levels.
They said an HVAC system inspection earlier this week revealed some of the outdoor air units were not performing at max capacity, but reparations are already underway.
School was moved to e-learning on Thursday “out of an abundance of caution,” and while the building was being assessed.
News 2 also spoke to a parent who used to have a student at Whitesides.
“We actually started at Whitesides in kindergarten. Within, I would say, a month, she started missing school, dealing with congestion and headaches, sneezing, coughing,” explained Paige Ducey.
Despite many doctors visits, Ducey said it wasn’t until her daughter transferred schools in 2021 for an unrelated reason, when the problems stopped.
“You know, now that we see there might be a bigger problem there, it definitely, you know, you kind of start connecting the dots and questioning, you know, what was she being exposed to and what are all of these children being exposed to?” Ducey asked.
Meanwhile, Bowman said she wants to see the CO2 levels for herself and repairs made before she feels safe enough to go back to school.
“I need written proof and I need written proof from a company outside of CCSD,” Bowman explained. “Either we get a consultant that has no affiliation with CCSD to come into the schools.”
District leaders said CO2 monitoring devices are being added throughout the building. Officials anticipate air sample results taken from several classrooms should be ready in the next week.