Banks County Opinions...

NOVEMBER 27, 2002


Editorial

By: Angela Gary
The Banks County News
November 27, 2002

What happened to Thanksgiving?
Christmas trees are already up in most stores and many homes. Holiday music is blaring from the radios and offices. Some red and green Christmas clothing can even be spotted in the crowds at the mall.
Everywhere I look lately, I see signs of Christmas. I want to know what happened to Thanksgiving. I was dismayed to find a buggy of Thanksgiving decorations pushed to the back of a store TWO weeks ago to make way for the Christmas decorations.
I love Christmas and all that it means more than anyone, but I don’t want us to rush the holiday ahead and forget about Thanksgiving in the process.
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln had the foresight to set aside the last Thursday in November for us to give thanks to God and for all that we have. This is something we should do every day, but it is wonderful that a special day has been set aside for this.
This Thanksgiving, take time to reflect on the things and people that you are thankful for. For me, the list is long...
Thank you, God, for another year of health and happiness. Thank you for guiding me through difficult times and joyous times.
Thank you, Mama and Daddy, for supporting me and following me around in some of my travels. I know if I can’t find anyone else to go on one of my journeys, they are always ready. This past Friday night, they sat in a stadium of thousands of screaming people in Greenville, S.C., for yet another country music concert. Only two weeks after Dad’s heart attack and Mom’s cornea injury, they were still willing to tag along with me. And they still call me “girl.” Who could ask for more?
Thank you, to my one-year-old nephew, Jake, for making me smile and laugh out loud more in the past year than I have in my entire life. Just a few weeks ago, I was rolling around laughing in the doctor’s office as we waited for the doctor to come in. Jake was in the corner, shaking his finger at me and gibbering away in a language only he understands.
Thank you, to my sister and brother-in-law, for sharing Jake with me and being patient for all the photo sessions.
Thank you, to my cat, Quincy, for curling up in my lap, following me around and always being happy to see me.
Thank you, for a job that keeps me busy. So many people are out of work and facing layoffs, more people should be thankful that they have a job instead of complaining about it all the time.
Thank you, to my “Mom at work,” Sharon Hogan, who I can count on for anything.
While faith, family and health should be at the top of everyone’s list of things to be thankful for, there are also the little things....
Thank you for good books, magazines, music and movies...Thank you for chocolate...Thank you for vacation-time...Thank you for sunny days and rainy afternoons...Thank you for the ocean and mountains...Thank you for true friends...Thank you for babies who make you laugh with their smiles and their screams...
Angela Gary is associate editor of The Jackson Herald and editor of The Banks County News. She can be reached at AngieEditor@aol.com.

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Column

By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Banks County News
November 27, 2002

New threat closes schools across the nation
Students won’t be praying for snow or ice this winter. They’ll be praying for something else entirely. Something that can close schools for a month or more.
Something so insidious it may already be in our schools and we don’t know about it yet. It’s not a smallpox outbreak or a freak tornado; it’s mold.
While most of the 100,000 species of mold are not hazardous, some types cause headaches, fatigue and serious respiratory problems. Serious enough to give Tennessee’s Bristol High School students a four-week hiatus when black mold was found in several classrooms.
In fact, across the state in Memphis, the death of one seventeen-year-old student on November 16 is currently being investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency while all 600 of his classmates are screened for similar problems.
The school board has also hired an environmental consultant.
According to an article by the Associated Press printed Sunday in Nashville, schools nationwide are finding allergy-inducing mold on walls, in carpets, in porous ceiling tiles and in ventilation systems.
The mold has forced schools to shut down for weeks while repairs costing upwards of one million dollars are made.
Students and staff in Florida filed suit last week against the school board claiming moldy buildings have caused long-term health problems.
Currently, there are no federal mandates on testing air quality in schools or even fixing problems that arise.
The EPA’s website says it has no regulatory or enforcement authority regarding general indoor air quality in schools.
But it does provide a free kit and instructional video on testing and improving air quality before the repair bills total the million dollar mark.
Alarmingly, the EPA website reports most of the problems with indoor mold are in the southeast because the southern humidity and warmth provide ideal conditions for the mold to fester. But any amount of water can cause microbial growth.
Condensation on cold water pipes or small leaks that aren’t completely sealed can produce enough mold long term to cost schools millions.
Unfortunately mold problems usually go unnoticed until people become ill, when the mold is out of control.
The Associated Press article mentions no schools in Georgia with problems, but we’ve all seen the special reports on the Atlanta news of homes being abandoned because the mold is out of control and the entire family is gravely ill.
And no one at the EPA can say which kind of building is worse: an old, dilapidated school or the newer schools made with Gypsum wallboard and carpeted floors which retain moisture and which allow for little natural ventilation. It states only that schools should be well ventilated with relative humidity below 60 percent during warm weather.
And that air quality should be monitored and maintained.
The districts hit the hardest seem to be those who delay maintenance and patch leaks.
Last week, Tennessee’s state education department emailed school administrators directing them to the EPA website where they can download information on improving air quality and get the air quality kits and video.
Why don’t we stay one step ahead of the Volunteers?
The agency’s kit and video are free to schools that request the kit by calling 1-800-438-4318.
The webpage pertaining to school’s air quality and mold is: www.epa.gov/iag/schools/scfaqs.html.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.

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