School District of Lee County responds to board member’s controversial claims

Reporter: Sydney Persing Writer: Jackie Winchester
Published: Updated:
Gwyn Gittens said photos of the outside of portable buildings at an undisclosed school bring her pain that students have to go to school in these conditions. (Photos shared by Gwyn Gittens)

The School District of Lee County has responded to a board member’s claims that students are learning in dangerous conditions.

WINK News first showed you on Wednesday some exclusive photos from Gwyn Gittens. The photos show rusty doors and chipped cinder blocks holding up portable classrooms. Gittens would not disclose the school these photos were taken at but said these conditions are unacceptable.

The district responded Thursday, with spokesman Rob Spicker saying students most definitely do not go to school in dangerous conditions.

“The portables in the photographs are all from one campus, and they were inspected by a state-certified fire inspector in January,” he said.

Spicker said that’s when the district made a plan to fix the portables that had problems, but that fix hasn’t happened yet. The work will be done after school lets out for the summer.

“Had there been any life-threatening hazards, the inspector would have immediately shut down the use of those portables,” Spicker explained.

WINK News asked Spicker, “Should parents be concerned that below a life-threatening threshold, there could be any danger to their students learning in those portables?”

“No, our portables are inspected every year by the state fire inspector,” he replied. “And if they were to determine that those portables were not in use, we would shut them down.”

Gittens doesn’t buy it. In a phone call Thursday, she told WINK News the photos she shared speak for themselves, loud and clear.

Debbie Jordan, school board chair, said she’s disappointed and frustrated that Gittens came to WINK News with the photos instead of the district.

Gittens said she tried to call a special meeting weeks ago to address a number of her concerns and she was voted down.

“She did ask for a special meeting, and based on not having information on what the special meeting was about, that meeting did not happen,” Jordan said.

“I keep hearing about not being able to take care of the students. This right here is taking us away from what we need to be doing.”

Jordan and the district directed WINK News to a May 2020 document that shows the board, including Gittens, approved inspection reports 7-0.

On Wednesday, Gittens told WINK News she hadn’t seen the inspection reports. The district and Jordan referred WINK to a May 19 document in which the board approved building and portable inspections unanimously 7-0. When asked about that document in her phone call Thursday with WINK News, Gittens acknowledged she did in fact vote for approval of the reports.

She said, however, that repairs were supposed to begin in January, not in June. And to that point, she reiterated that the photos should speak for themselves.

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