Fungus invades Clovis High School classrooms

Water damage and mold cover the back side of a cabinet that was removed from the wall of a Clovis High School classroom. (Staff photo: Sharna Johnson)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Behind the walls of Clovis High School Building E, black fungi flourish, dotting cabinets and once-hidden surfaces. The building was closed in September after teachers complained of a pungent stench. Construction revealed extensive water damage caused by a leaky roof and the building will not be ready for occupancy until next school year, school officials said.

School officials said the building will undergo an air quality test once construction is complete.

While black mold can pose a health risk when exposed and disturbed, there is nothing that indicates the mold in Building E is toxic, said Clovis Schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm.

The leaky roof is being replaced by Newt and Butch Roofing of Clovis and should be complete by the end of this week, project manager Scott Hays said. State funds were used to replace three Clovis High School roofs; construction began in July, and Building E is the last of the three to be replaced, Hays said. Interior building repairs have not yet begun.

There are seven classrooms in Building E in which students studied various subjects. The classes that were formerly held in Building E are now held in recently constructed Building G, according to Clovis High School teacher Carol Singletary.

Leaky roofs seem to be a Clovis school epidemic.

When Amanda Bibbs is in class, drops of water from the ceiling sometimes land on her head, she said. On rainy days, a game of musical chairs ensues in certain classrooms, she said, with students trying to avoid the drips. She said at least two classrooms in the Clovis High School, other than those in E, have leaky roofs.

“It messes up our concentration,” Bibbs said.

Clovis High School Principal Jody Balch said he is not aware of extensive leaking in additional classrooms. Balch said water leaks at the high school campus are minimal in comparison to those at other schools. “I’m used to catching water by the bucket full (at Yucca Junior High School),” said Balch, a former Yucca principal.

That roof is slated to be fixed soon. Newt and Butch were awarded the project at a Tuesday school board meeting.
Quite a few schools need roof attention, school officials said.

Securing the necessary state funds to replace roofs is in fact the No. 1 priority in Clovis, and other districts across the state, according to Public School Facility Authority Regional Manager Jim Davis, employed to assist the district in receiving capital outlay funds.

The state has set aside $62 million to address school roofing concerns, Davis said.

Yucca Junior High School, Sandia Elementary, and Parkview Elementary will be among the first to see relief, as schools assessed most in need of new roofs, said Clovis Schools Director of Operation Gene Beiker. But the majority of the roofs in the district are so old the 20-year warranties that once covered them will soon expire. Those roofs will need to be replaced by December or January, school officials said.

The real problem — flat roofs, Beiker said.

“We don’t like flat roofs. They do not work well for us,” Beiker said.

Unfortunately, replacing the schools’ flat roofs with pitched roofs is just too expensive, said David Briseno, Clovis schools’ director of federal programs and public relations.

Replacing a school roof generally costs about $2 million. And the cost of building material and the demand for roofers has skyrocketed due to a rough hurricane season, Davis said. Recent school administration bids for roofing work have yielded little response. The only company to respond to the Yucca bid was Butch and Newt.

The flat roof, nonetheless, has been relegated to the past, as far as schools are concerned.

New school roofs in the state are being built at a slight angle to allow water run-off, officials said.