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Pueblo charter school infested with skunks and cats for months

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- A charter school in Pueblo is telling students not to come to school this week and learn online from home. Teachers tell 13 Investigates that the move to revert back to remote learning stems from a reoccurring animal problem on the school’s campus. 

Three separate teachers tell 13 Investigates dozens of cats and multiple skunks have been roaming Chavez/Huerta K-12 Preparatory Academy (CHPA) since the beginning of the school year, specifically at the Dolores Huerta Preparatory High School. 

All three teachers requested to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation from the Pueblo charter school’s administration. 

For the past two days, the teachers say the high school's students have been learning from home. They say the school told parents there were unforeseeable non-emergency circumstances causing the reversion to remote learning. 

However, all three teachers say the smell of skunk spray has permeated the high school campus since the middle of last week. One of the charter school teachers said “you could smell it in the parking lot” when they came into work on Monday.

Additionally, one of the teachers filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after a fellow teacher experienced a severe allergic reaction, presumably from the cats on campus. 

Following the OSHA complaint, CHPA hired a third party to investigate and conduct “an initial survey of the site's conditions” in November. 

According to the report obtained by 13 Investigates, the investigators found multiple air filters were heavily soiled and in need of being replaced in multiple classrooms. Underneath one of the modular or mobile classrooms, they found evidence of an animal entering into the crawl space, the presence of mold, and a strong odor of cat urine.

“Brown classroom may also be affected by black mold spores migrating from the crawlspace environment into the classroom,“ the investigative report said. “It is unknown what concentration of cat urine ammonia or cat dander may also be migrating into the classroom.”

The investigators conclude that it is “certainly feasible” that an employee with a cat allergy had a severe allergic reaction while working in that classroom. 

Additionally, the investigator makes several recommendations for the school to address the concerns. These recommendations include replacing the HVAC filters, cleaning the interior of the HVAC units, removing all animals from beneath the buildings, sealing the access points, and testing for indoor air quality. 

13 Investigates reached out to CHPA to see if these recommendations had been addressed. We are still waiting on a response. 

OSHA appears to be content with the actions taken by the charter school so far. In a Dec. 6 letter to the teacher that originally filed the complaint, they declared the case closed. 

“Chavez/Huerta K-12 Preparatory Academy (CHPA) has advised me that the hazards you complained about have been investigated,” OSHA stated in the letter. “With this information, OSHA feels the case can be closed on the grounds that the hazardous conditions have been corrected (or no longer exist).” 

The teachers tell 13 Investigates the school worked on the HVAC units, trapped dozens of animals, and placed cinder blocks at the entry points underneath the modular classroom. However, they say dozens of cats and skunks still occupy the school grounds. 

All three teachers say they are unaware if parents have been notified of the current circumstances at CHPAm or of the teacher’s severe allergic reaction.  

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Dan Beedie

Dan is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about Dan here.


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