Photos by Kelsey Leyva | Civitas Media JVS carpentry instructor Ron Gresco sits outside the Wellington Enterprise office after his interview with reporter Kelsey Leyva.
A recent complaint to the Public Employment Risk Reduction Program resulted in the fourth examination of the Lorain County JVS’s carpentry lab since March 2014.
Also included in the investigation was the collision repair lab.
Superintendent Glenn Faircloth said PERRP did the evaluation about a week ago after JVS carpentry instructor Ron Gresco filed a complaint.
During the investigation, PERRP runs a series of tests to determine the capacity of the ventilation system. Faircloth described it as running worst case scenarios or a “full load.”
Gresco said his formal complaint had more to do with the collision repair lab than it did the carpentry lab, although he’s filed grievances about the carpentry lab since 2005.
Last August, the JVS board approved the purchase of a $160,000 paint booth for the collision repair lab. According to meeting minutes, the school district still didn’t have permits for the booth by its meeting on Dec. 18.
At a more recent board meeting on April 16, the board discussed how the paint booth was still not operational and the project would be completed over the summer.
This raised concerns for Gresco, who now suffers from COPD due to poor ventilation in the carpentry lab.
He wrote a letter to Faircloth voicing his concerns about the carpentry and collision repair lab on April 20. To his understanding, the board didn’t have a study conducted by a professional hygienist on the collision repair booth, it didn’t get engineered drawings from contractors until the project was nearly complete, and at least three vehicles were painted without a designated spray booth.
After hearing no response from Faircloth, Gresco filed his complaint with PERRP on May 5.
Gresco included the carpentry lab in his complaint because according to him and Faircloth, no changes have been made to the ventilation system since the first round of tests began back in March 2014.
“I take it very seriously because we’re working with other people’s children,” he said. “Unfortunately this has consumed me and it has changed my professional and personal life.”
Faircloth also believes he’s doing everything he can to ensure the safety of staff and students.
“I believe that we’re in full compliance,” he said. “I believe we’ve done everything and we have had federal agencies and state agencies and even independent studies come in and validate our lab.”
Gresco said he was removed from his lab about 10 days before the first investigation of the facility on the grounds that it was unsafe for him to teach in.
That decision came six months after Gresco’s doctor, George Adams, sent the administration a letter on Oct. 3, 2013, informing the district of Gresco’s COPD diagnosis and that the lab was “detrimental to his health.”
Only one evaluation was conducted while Gresco was in the lab, which was back in 2010, and showed that the air had an average of 6.5 milligrams of particles over the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s recommended limit.
It wasn’t until March 2014, more than three years later, that another evaluation was conducted.
Faircloth said the last three tests conducted in the lab came back “well below the standard.”
Plumbing instructor Frank Abbey observed the inspection on March 17, 2014, and reported to Faircloth that only three or four students were using saws at the time, which is not a typical lab day.
The school won’t know the results of the latest test for a couple of weeks.
“I don’t know what they’ll find,” Faircloth said. “My hopes is that it’s safe. And if it’s not we will make it safe.”
Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.