Two curious discoveries were made last Thursday morning: 1) Ms. Goka had not come into school, and failed to call apologizing for leaving her stars leaderless, and 2) a potent smell was wafting from a corner in the front office and making its way into the vents. After five days the smell worsened, and spread to the area surrounding the office, which forced the office staff and administration to relocate to the main entryway. Goka’s mysterious absence continued just as the smell worsened.
“We thought Ms. Goka might have died in the ceiling,” Academic Dean Ryan Waugh said. “We thought [the smell] was her body decomposing.”
Goka conveniently returned the day the source of the smell was located. She claimed if it had been her body found decomposing in the ceiling, Waugh or High School Vice Principal Anah Wiersema would have been responsible for her death.
Speculation over the source of the smell was not only due to the corresponding absence of Goka but also because of AISD Pest Management (DPM). A district pest management employe, with 22 years of experience in pest management, arrived on the possible crime scene Thursday Feb. 9. After intense sniffing, the employee insisted that the smell was from a sewer pipe and not a dead animal.
“He used his whole experience card on me about dead pests, and he said it was sewer. I said, ‘it’s not sewer’, so there goes the ongoing saga from that point forward.” Waugh said. “But nevertheless we persisted.” Wiersma said
Friday Feb. 10 DPM returned and searched the ceiling with no success. At this point DPM concluded that the smell was either a dead animal in the walls, which nothing could be done about, or it was the prevailing sewer possibility. On Monday Feb. 13 district officials received a strongly worded email from Wiersema about the intolerable working conditions of the office staff.
“For the office staff it’s really terrible to leave the office, because then they don’t have access to the phones or computers,” Wiersma said.
Finally on Tuesday Feb. 14 DPM located the origin of the odor: it was located underneath the office in the form of a rotting raccoon. Office staff and administration were able to return to the main office after a few hours aring out and occasionally smelling a perfume cap belonging to Goka.
Staff and students at the Ann Richards School are subject to yet another odor wafting through the hallways, and it’s begun to stir up rumors- but this time it isn’t a rotting animal that’s to blame.
Due to Hurricane Harvey, water and raw sewage flooded under the gym floors. The sewage was partially responsible for the smell, despite speculations that the cause was a raccoon living in the bleachers.
“[The raccoon] was maybe peeing in the gym, and that’s why it stunk so bad in the gym,” Ms. Anah Wiersema said. “We put in a work order and we’re investigating it. That’s normally our process, is like, we see what we can see.”
There have been other raccoons in the school building in the past, but they are usually found dead.
“The raccoons, they come in because there was food left over; and they’re hungry. I have seen them before, but I have not seen them presently,” Coach Jackie Theil said.
The raccoon living under the bleachers was caught and removed from the bleachers the same day it was found. A work order for plumbers, filed by Ms. Maria Martinez, was the solution to a leaking pipe under the gym floors.
“They came and treated that,” Ms.Martinez said, “It is related to sewage waters. Now in order for them to go down there and work on it they have to wait until all that smell and water is completely dry, so that they can go work on the pipe.”
The scent was not completely neutralized because there was also a stench spreading from Mr. Juan Carlos Ruiz’s room at the same time. At times, his classes had been displaced to the library and the cafetorium, and one of the upper bathrooms was closed. Students could be heard blaming a dead rat found in the ceiling, but the plumbers and the pest control couldn’t find anything.
“Plumbing came and plumbing says it’s a dead animal,” Ms. Martinez said. “Pest control says it’s not a dead animal. We’re still trying to figure out what’s happening on the second floor. It’s kind of like a gassy smell; it’s coming from the pipes I’m pretty sure. I just resent another work order today to see if someone from a higher precision can come and check into that, because we cannot continue having the smell.”