Missouri elementary school where radioactive waste was found will switch to virtual classes – NBC News | Team Cansler

Students at a Missouri elementary school where “unacceptably high” levels of radioactive waste were found will switch to virtual learning, the school board announced Tuesday.

At a packed meeting Tuesday night, the Hazelwood School District board of directors told concerned parents that Florissant’s Jana Elementary School will transition to virtual classes Monday, with plans to reallocate students to other area schools after the Thanksgiving break.

The board apologized to the parents and said they plan to work with legal counsel to ensure hazardous material is cleaned up.

In emotional speeches, parents thanked board members for taking steps to protect their children – while also expressing anger at the school district’s lack of transparency. Many said they learned about radioactive waste at their children’s school through Facebook posts or news reports.

“I can get a call for a crayon or pencil, but not about nuclear waste,” said Kimberly Anderson, whose three grandchildren attend Jana Elementary.

Environmental survey consultants reported last week that radioactive lead was found at more than 22 times the expected level on Jana Elementary School’s kindergarten playground and at more than 12 times the expected level on the school’s basketball courts.

Jana Elementary is located in the Coldwater Creek floodplain, which was contaminated in the 1940s and 1950s when radioactive waste from WWII weapons production was dumped nearby.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been cleaning up the creek for more than two decades. It tested the area around the creek for years, but never tested within or within 300 feet of the elementary school.

Documents obtained by student safety advocates this year showed low levels of contamination on the banks of the creek near the school, based on the Corps of Engineers’ 2018 tests. According to The Associated Press, the school board was given the results presented in June.

The Boston Chemical Data Corp. independent report Last week’s report, which marked the first time samples had been taken from inside Jana Elementary School, confirmed the parents’ worst fears. It showed that radioactive concentrations most likely posed an “unacceptably high risk for the children”.

The Army Corps of Engineers played down the results.

“The Boston Chemical Data Corp. report does not conform to our accepted assessment techniques and must be thoroughly reviewed to ensure its accuracy,” said Phil Moser, a program manager who oversees the investigation and remediation of sites that were part of the country’s early nuclear energy and weapons program.

“Any contamination that poses a high risk or imminent threat would be treated as a priority,” his statement continued.

The Hazelwood School District Board of Directors meets Tuesday in Florissant, Missouri.HSD Board of Education Meeting via YouTube

Hours before Tuesday’s meeting, Jana said PTA President Ashley Bernaugh she hoped community members would support the school board.

“We know our school district did not create this waste,” she said, adding that she blames the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy for not taking steps to test and clean up the school.

The student population at Jana Elementary, just outside of St. Louis, is about 80% black. A father asked the school board to consider pollution as a pressing environmental justice issue.

Parents said they and others they know in the community have been diagnosed with rare cancers or faced other serious health problems that they believe were direct results of their exposure to radioactive waste.

Karen Nickel, a co-founder of environmental activist group Just Moms STL, who attended school in the district, told the board she had multiple autoimmune diseases. She thanked the board members for not keeping the students at Jana Elementary School.

“Nobody protected me. Nobody stood up for me,” she said, her voice breaking. “The school district, the board, they didn’t know. They couldn’t stand up for me and you save lives. You will save lives.”

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