JONESVILLE, Va. (WJHL) – Citizens of Jonesville have reached out to News Channel 11 to point out that Bristol does not seem to be the only smelly place in the region – Lee High School seems to have been fighting “odor issues” for decades.
Parents who spoke with News Channel 11 asked to remain unnamed but said that their children, students at Lee High School, battle nosebleeds and headaches when the smell becomes particularly overwhelming.
Rob Hines, Chair of the Lee County School Board, said he has received complaints and confirmed Wednesday that all issues have been addressed.
“(I) think we had some issues with some exhaust and some vents and some drains,” Hines said. “So what we did was the Saturday after the complaint was filed, is we did a smoke test. And so we closed off a couple of drains, and we’ve also changed the arrangements on some vents and exhaust they were maybe pulling into each other, which it shouldn’t be doing so we corrected those.”
He said the foul odor was caused by exhaust pipes on the roof of the high school placed too near to the intake vents going through the HVAC system. Everything that was being extracted was being pulled right back into the classrooms.
“So we’ve raised those to where that won’t be an issue anymore. And since that time, we’ve not had any complaints, so hopefully, it’s taken care of,” Hines explained.
He added that he is too old to have been a student of the high school constructed in 1989, but he has heard of the same issue dating back to essentially day one of the school’s existence.
“Everything’s the same except for what we’ve replaced and corrective action been taken, but it’s my understanding for people that went to school here that the odor has been an issue off and on through the decades, so for over three decades. Hopefully, we had it taken care of now, but that’s just kind of in the history of the school,” Hines said.
He mentioned a previous complaint that prompted a September 2019 engineering study of the issue by OWPR Architects and Engineers. The study showed that most of the components within the school building were original to the 1989 construction.
Some observations listed by the engineer were that two intake louvers on the roof had plumbing vents directly under them, the exhaust fan that serves as the central stack of bathrooms was not operational and the urinals in one of the boys’ bathrooms had leaky waste lines.
“2019, we actually had a complaint or complaints. So we had an engineering study done. And so based upon that study, there were some recommendations and some actions to be taken. And we’ve taken those, I confirmed that this morning, that everything in that report has been taken care of so it’s been a problem for a while,” Hines said.
The school of 600 students was not repaired immediately, Hines explained, but it has been systematically fixed over the past few years.
“We want to make sure that everybody has a pleasant environment to work in and learn in. We don’t want anybody to have concerns about safety or health,” he added.
Students will be back in the classroom after spring break and Hines said he hopes the odor becomes simply part of history.