Chief Investigative Reporter

Jeremy Finley is the chief investigator for News4 Investigates. His reporting has resulted in criminal convictions, legislative hearings before the U.S. Congress, and the payout of more than a million dollars to scam victims.

The phone message arrived to parents of Hunters Lane High School on Sunday, Sept. 15 that 10 classrooms would not be used the next day.

“Hi Warriors,” said the recorded message from Principal Dr. Susan Kessler, “I was made aware Friday that in the last radon testing in April 2018, 10 classrooms at Hunters Lane tested above action level for radon. We will not be using the classrooms that registered high on Monday as we are going to be re-testing each room to ensure that all are below the action level.”

Metro Health Department records show that in July 2019, Metro tested again and found one of those 10 classrooms from 2018 again tested high for radon levels.

A Metro Schools schools spokeswoman said at the time Kessler left the message, they were not aware of the 2019 re-testing, thus the message to parents was made based on the 2018 results.

The message is one way principals and district leaders are waging a never-ending fight against radon levels in classrooms.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas.

Repeated exposure to radon can lead to cancer, and Davidson County is in top tier of counties with the highest potential for elevated indoor radon levels.

A News4 analysis of Metro Health radon inspections from 2018 to July 2019 show more than 24 schools had at least one classroom that tested with higher-than-acceptable levels of radon.

You can read here how each school tested in 2018 and 2019 fared. Any reading over 4.0 pCi/L is a higher-than acceptable level of radon.

Metro Schools - and all public buildings in Davidson County - are tested every five years for radon if levels are found to be acceptable.

No Metro school has ever tested high enough to evacuate a classroom, but if radon levels are between 4.0 and 20 pCi/L, then re-testing is required.

"Once we see the results of our testing, and we see where there may be actionable levels that we need to take,” said Dawn Rutledge, spokeswoman for Metro Schools.

After the principal’s message, Rutledge said maintenance workers checked the ventilation systems in the classroom and cracks in floors and walls.

Tests this week at Hunters Lane showed the radon levels had all fallen to acceptable levels, but another round of testing is scheduled for this weekend.

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