CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County Board of Education President Pete Thaw said Thursday he believes schools in his county will continue to have problems with the smell of licorice in the days to come. The county closed three schools early Thursday and five schools have closed in the last two days.
“I think this is going to go on for a long time and anytime it shows up we’re going to have to dismiss,” Thaw said.
School officials closed J.E. Robins, Watts and Overbrook elementary schools in Charleston after the odor was detected. All of the schools have been previously tested for the chemical MCHM in the days following the Jan. 9 chemical leak at Freedom Industries that began the water emergency. All had previously tested at Non Detect levels.
But the smell returned to those schools along with Riverside High and Midland Trail Elementary Wednesday. Those two schools were closed again Thursday.
“People are going to say, ‘Why do you do it on the smell?’ Thaw said. “We’re going to do it on any indication at all. Any indication at all we’ve got to be super careful.”
The inter-agency testing team will oversee re-flushing and retesting at the schools.
Kanawha County School Superintendent Ron Duerring told the Charleston Daily Mail Thursday the school system has to dismiss.
“You don’t know what to do anymore, you don’t know what’s right and wrong,” Duerring said. “If they get that smell then there’s a concern about that odor, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
“We have to react. Can you imagine not letting them go home? Can you imagine a child smelling this, complaining about it and saying you can’t go home? No, no, no,” Thaw said.
Kanawha County students have already missed more than 10 days of school since Jan. 1 with the water emergency and weather combined. Thaw said academics are impacted.
“It’s unbelievable. First, we had the snow and we had the ice and now we have this,” he said. “This is not a good academic year.”