If Mount Vernon High School officials can cordon off the auditorium and the area affected by a massive wall collapse that forced nearly a week of class cancellations, the state will allow them to re-open the school as early as Monday.
The Mount Vernon School Board made the announcement before an auditorium at the A.B. Davis Middle School, packed with parents, students and teachers on Thursday. A crowd spilled into the hallways because there were so many people inside.
School board members said that state inspectors will observe the area around the collapse today, and if the school can sufficiently cordon off that wing from the rest of the building, the state will issue a temporary certificate of occupancy.
Board members also say that air quality tests were conducted throughout the school. Of the 44 samples taken, none yielded any evidence of asbestos.
But parents were not convinced that the school is entirely safe.
"How do we know the other walls aren't going to collapse around us?" asked one parent.
Another parent said, "Asbestos isn’t the only concern, so my question is what other pollutants are we testing for and why is the air quality just acceptable and not great?"
Reverend Franklin Porterfield said his daughter was attending an after school program when the wall collapsed. She was fortunate to be on the other side of the building, but if she had been, she could easily have been injured.
Porterfield says he won't let his daughter return to school until he sees a full inspection report, even if she’s already missed an entire week.
"My daughter’s life is more important than missing a couple days of school," he said.
Most parents were concerned about preventing similar incidents from happening in the future. Many of the school buildings are old and although the school district received a $20 million grant for capital improvements in January 2009, it is not clear how much of that has been spent and how much was allotted to Mount Vernon High.
"There may have been some portion of that money to go towards Mount Vernon High School," said Charlie Stern, a school board member, "but it certainly wasn’t earmarked for this wall that nobody knew about."
It is still not clear why the wall collapsed, but school officials believe it may have beene design- or construction-related.
The school partially reopened Friday for cleaning and preparation for the students' return.