OBERLIN — Lorain County Joint Vocational School instructor Ron Gresco said he was recently diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a diagnosis he blames on poor air quality in the carpentry lab at the JVS.
Gresco, who has taught carpentry classes at the school for 13 years, was placed on paid administrative leave due to “health concerns,” according to Lorain County JVS Superintendent Glenn Faircloth, who wouldn’t divulge the circumstances of those health concerns due to privacy laws.
Faircloth was questioned about Gresco’s absence by parents of carpentry students, who said their children are not receiving the same quality education from a substitute teacher as they were from Gresco.
When asked about his health issues, Gresco told The Chronicle-Telegram that the COPD was directly caused by the school district, which he alleges covered up poor air quality test results that were completed in 2010.
“I had a student removed from my lab for respiratory distress. He was taken to the emergency room,” he said.
Faircloth said he was not informed of any air quality concerns in the carpentry lab until he was approached by Gresco two months after he became superintendent in 2012. After that, he said he ordered two tests to be completed, of which results are still pending, and he began updating the equipment to reduce dust particles in the air.
Faircloth said he does not believe that students are unsafe in the lab. He said the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, an agency that completed one of the air quality tests, did not note any initial problems, although test results are not yet available.
“I think it’s one of our premier programs here. It’s a viable program; however, I have to make sure it’s safe,” he said. “In the event that we cannot make it safe, I have to do my due diligence.”
Gresco said, however, that the new equipment in the lab took some time to install, and it was the same type of equipment that had been used in 2010, when the initial problems were noted.
Lorain County JVS Board President Rex Engle said Faircloth is handling the investigation, and that investigation is being taken seriously.
During Thursday night’s Board of Education meeting, parents said they are concerned about the carpentry program and where it is heading.
Those parents said their children haven’t received grades in a punctual manner, nor are they being prepared for required testing since Gresco was placed on leave.
Assistant Superintendent Jerry Pavlik would not comment on Gresco’s absence, and he could not say when he would return.