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Two St. James Elementary School students have tested positive for mycotoxins consistent with the mold type found in air quality testing of the school earlier this year, according to their parents.

Meredith Smith told the Horry County School Board Monday night that recent urine tests given to her child and the child of Kristy Roderick showed “red zone” levels of ochratoxin and mycophenolic acid.

According to results from The Great Plains Laboratory, Inc., ochratoxin and mycophenolic acid are both produced by molds in the aspergillus and penicillium families. Aspergillus and penicillium were both found in air sample tests at the school earlier this year.

Smith said that while her pediatrician had given her daughter a clean bill of health, she moved forward in obtaining urine testing for her first-grader via Kasey Bordas, a certified holistic health practitioner in Conway. Roderick’s daughter was tested with the same kind of test, from the same laboratory.

Both families had mold testing done in their homes, and both Smith and Roderick said the toxins were not found in either of their residences.

“Exposure is done primarily through water-damaged buildings,” the results said.

Smith shared the test results with the board members before speaking.

“If these are in my healthy child’s urine, imagine how many students and staff have these mycotoxins in their body and don’t even know it,” Smith said.

Bordas said last month that this particular type of test is exploratory, and is not covered by insurance. The test costs around $400.

Smith said that the genetic variability among those exposed to mycotoxins is great. Roderick’s daughter has been extremely ill, while Smith’s daughter has not exhibited many symptoms.

“Our children have the same toxins in their body,” Smith said. “I will not wait to see if she will suffer. The time for change is now.”

The district recently approved replacing the school’s roof, but Smith said that isn’t enough. She believes surface sampling mold tests, not air sample tests, and HVAC work need to be done.

“The District is committed in providing all students and staff with a safe learning environment,” said Lisa Bourcier, spokesperson for Horry County Schools.

Roderick said her daughter has suffered headaches, lots of upper respiratory issues, and has started having anxiety about going to school.

“At first we excused them away,” Roderick said.

When the headaches and issues continued into the next school year, she started doing more to try to combat her daughter’s symptoms, including changing out the water system in the house, eating organic foods, putting air purifiers in her daughter’s bedroom and switching out bedding.

During one of their trips to an urgent care facility, Roderick said employees asked if her daughter had been exposed to mold.

“It’s like ding, ding, ding! Everything came together for me,” Roderick said.

Antibiotics provided her daughter no relief.

“I think people are very confused as to what this might look like for their children, and that’s my biggest concern,” Roderick said.

Both Roderick and Smith said their children are being treated with a variety of vitamins and charcoal binders to help their bodies get rid of the mycotoxins, which according to the test results can cause kidney function issues and neurodegenerative diseases.

Roderick’s daughter has already been removed from the school, and Smith said her daughter will finish this school year, but they are already exploring options for other schools for next year.

“I’m not somebody that wants to cause alarm or panic, but I really hope we can get some real resolution,” Roderick said.

She said she hopes they can have a “real conversation” with the school district.

“I hope once they can start seeing this type of evidence…they will open their eyes a little bit more to the situation, that we do have the science and testing available to put the pieces together, whether they are willing to or not,” Roderick said.

In other school board news

  • The board gave preliminary approval of to the Superintendent’s Comprehensive Budget. A public hearing will take place on the budget June 3, with a final approval scheduled for June 17. Including the general fund, special revenue, education improvement act debt service, school building, food service and pupil activity, the proposed budget totals $683.5 million.
  • The new Myrtle Beach school reconfigurations are almost ready for the 2019-2020 school year. They will be Myrtle Beach Early Childhood Services housing Child Development and Kindergarten and Myrtle Beach Primary (current Myrtle Beach Elementary) housing grades 1-2. The newly-remodeled former Myrtle Beach Middle will become Myrtle Beach Elementary, housing grades 3-5. Teachers will be packing up June 3-7, according to the district, and the facilities department plans to move its equipment into the buildings beginning June 10. Open house will be Aug. 15 for all three schools.
  • The board discussed the possibility of renaming the Horry County Education Center, because the new building will begin construction in the coming months. The facilities committee will bring this item back for discussion in July, with options of best ways to go about naming the building.

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