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Safety repairs on the way for 2 schools

Among the pressing issues for the Clayton County School System –– along with renovations, structural changes and upgrades to some of its facilities –– two schools with safety concerns are drawing immediate attention.

The playground equipment at Roberta T. Smith Elementary School, located at 6340 Highway 42 South, in Rex, and the presence of mold at Unidos Dual Language Charter School, located at 4475 Hendrix Drive, in Forest Park, have school officials springing into action.

Michelle Matthews, principal at Roberta T. Smith Elementary, said students are not being allowed to play on the equipment at the school, because of safety concerns. Some of the bolts that hold the equipment together are missing, which could create a safety hazard.

Matthews said the school did not know the severity of the situation until a concerned parent informed school officials.

“Once we got news about the playground equipment, we notified the district immediately,” she said. District officials then contacted the company that supplied the playground equipment.

“Thankfully,” she said, “no students have been injured” as a result of playing on the equipment.

Clayton County Public Schools Chief Operations Officer Cephus Jackson said maintenance workers check the playground equipment at each school, periodically, at and it was just four weeks ago that they checked the equipment at Roberta T. Smith Elementary.

He said he believes the damage to the equipment was caused by older individuals “horse-playing” on the equipment. “Teenagers, who are too large, climbed on the upper ladder, going up to the slide,” he said. “That’s too much weight –– and the platform was cracked.”

Matthews agreed, and said she believes the bulk of the damage was caused by neighborhood children who come to the playground after school hours.

“People come out on the weekends and weekdays,” she said. “It’s not only for school use.”

She added, however, that individuals are not usually allowed to use the playground without permission from the school. To ensure the safety of students, Matthews said, caution tape has been placed around the defective equipment, and signs posted to keep people off the playground equipment.

Jackson said the parts to repair the equipment have already been ordered, but he is not able to give a date when the playground will be re-opened.

At Unidos Dual Language Charter School, mold is the issue. Jackson said it is going to cost the district $235,000 to remove the mold infestation at the school. During the board of education meeting earlier this week, he called for immediate action to address the problem.

Jackson said the lowest bid for the work was $235,000, but declined to give the name of the contractor. He said that information would be made available at the school board’s Oct. 3 meeting, which is when, he said, he will ask board members to approve a contract for the work.

The mold, he said, was discovered when workers were putting in a new heating and air-conditioning unit. It is in the attic, located in the lower level of the school. He said the workers notified the district, and in turn, the district notified parents about the situation.

The work is expected to be completed by the winter break, he said. For now, the school’s students are being housed in portable buildings, said Jackson.