Investigation opened into Detroit's Spain school

Posted at 6:59 PM, Jan 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-13 18:59:47-05

At Spain Elementary-Middle School in Detroit there is a music teacher who spoke out when she saw kids in danger. 

Patricia Hall filed a complaint with the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration in October. 

Hall told the administration she was sick, kids were sick, and doctors believed it could be due to mold in the building.

It made sense. 

The roof had been leaking for years in the gym. The district never fixed it, even after it warped the gym’s floor boards. The district instead simply started holding physical education classes in the halls, instead of the gym.

In December she received notice from MiOSHA.  It had numerous complaints and contacted the district.  The district then responded promising to take care of it within 15 days. 

As a result of the promise, MiOSHA closed the investigations.

DPS never kept its promise.

Then on Monday teachers fed up with working in a dangerous building brought 7 Action News cameras inside to see the gym. 

It is a shocking sight. Water still drips from rusted beams along the ceiling. The floorboards that remain are so warped, they are shaped like a wave.  The floorboards that have been pulled up reveal a black substance that appears to be a mixture of adhesive and mildew or black mold to teachers.

Our story inspired Mayor Mike Duggan to tour the school and other schools, call for city inspections, and promise code enforcement. 

It also made workers at MiOSHA realize they had made a mistake in trusting the district. On Wednesday morning a MiOSHA spokesperson wrote 7 Action News Reporter Kim Russell saying:

The most recent complaints received regarding Spain Elementary were from May and October 2015 alleging similar hazards, including mold, water leaks, lack of hot water, and pest infestation. Through additional communication with the employer, MIOSHA received inspection reports from both the Detroit Public Schools’ industrial hygienist and Office of Risk Management that confirmed that the hot water issue and pest infestation were being addressed, and that areas of the building with water leaks and potential mold issues were closed off to prevent exposures until further repairs could be made. Based on these inspection reports from the employer and other follow-up communications, MIOSHA determined that employees were not directly exposed to those hazards. MIOSHA closed both complaints on December 3, 2015.

However, based on new information contained in your investigative report, including testimonials and video footage relating to the building structure and air quality, MIOSHA has now opened an investigation with the employer (as of yesterday afternoon) to address these hazards.

Teachers are just grateful someone will no be looking into what is happening at the school

“I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have someone look out for us,” said Patricia Hall.  “Thank you Channel 7."

Mayor Michael Duggan also promises to have city health inspectors make sure Spain Elementary Middle School and other schools meet code

“We can’t act as if this is an acceptable way for children to learn,” said Duggan. “I am glad you are shining a spotlight on it, because I think people of good conscience will respond when they know.”

Mayor Duggan says he will also be working to solve problems in DPS politically. He says funding is key to the district’s ability to improve. 

Legislation is expected to be introduced that could help Thursday morning.