Improvements under way at Wheatley Elementary School



APOPKA, Fla. - Teachers at Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School in Apopka told Channel 9 the school building is falling apart so badly that it's keeping the students from learning.

Channel 9's Karla Ray began asking the district for documents last week after being contacted by teachers. On Friday, she found district leaders are taking action and will have maintenance crews assess the building.

Photos from inside the school show crumbling baseboards, rusty pipes and what appears to be a bullet hole in a window.

"I've seen rodents, insects, rat droppings, pipes coming out of the floors," one teacher told WFTV. "How can students really be expected to perform well?"

Last year, the school was D-rated, and the teachers believe mold in the building is making students sick.

Since Channel 9’s report aired, school leaders met to talk about the deplorable conditions exposed.

On Tuesday, Channel 9 found a federally required asbestos inspection in the school was skipped in 2011. The district had an inspection done last week, five years after the last checkup.

“We are conducting a full audit to find out how that was missed,” said school spokeswoman Kathy Marsh.

Marsh said the asbestos report showed no danger to students or staff, but she admits the mistake and images from inside the school raise troubling questions about neglect.

Some improvements are already being made. On Monday, the school was power-washed and trees were trimmed, but those who work inside the building said there’s a lot more to be done.

“The children there deserve to have a fair, equal chance to go to school in an environment like any other school in Orange County,” said another teacher.

And despite plans to replace the school in two years, the district promised problems will get fixed.

“There's no sentiment that because Wheatley may be replaced in two years that it's a throwaway school, not by any means,” said Marsh.

"Wheatley is 62 years old and just like any old building, it takes a lot more to keep up and a lot more expense to keep up," said public relations director Dylan Thomas.

Thomas said pests in the school have been exterminated, but he admits the grounds are in poor condition.