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Hazelwood will close elementary school with radioactive contamination

 Parents packed the Hazelwood School District's Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022 in Florissant. District officials announced Jana Elementary will temporarily close because of radioactive contamination in the school.
Kate Grumke
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Parents packed the Hazelwood School District's Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022 in Florissant. District officials announced Jana Elementary will temporarily close because of radioactive contamination in the school.

The Hazelwood School District in Florissant is closing an elementary school because of radioactive contamination from World War II-era nuclear waste.

At a packed school board meeting Tuesday, district leaders announced Jana Elementary will move to virtual learning, starting next week, and teachers will work from another location.

As early as November, the district says families will get information about new school assignments and students could start at those new locations by Nov. 28.

“We recognized that you are being faced with a situation not created by anyone in this room and over which you have no control and that this is causing a disruption to our student’s education and school climate,” said school board president Betsy Rachel. “For that we sincerely apologize.”

At the board meeting, many parents said they were glad the district took action but still frustrated by the plans for virtual school.

Teresha Anderson’s daughter is a second grader at Jana and has special needs, which makes online class difficult.

“It’s just a whirlwind,” Anderson said. “I know my child. She cannot. We already did the virtual thing when the pandemic first hit so I hope Hazelwood will do right by the students, by every student.”

Parents were also unhappy with the district’s communication about the report. Many parents said they heard about it Friday from local news or the school’s Parent Teacher Association.

Some parents questioned why the school wasn’t already closed this week. Researchers with the firm Boston Chemical Data Corporation found “entirely unacceptable” levels of contamination at the school in samples collected in August. The contamination was in the school’s classrooms, library, kitchen and on playgrounds.

Parents are worried their kids could have serious health effects because of this situation.

The school board says it is working with legal counsel to make sure responsible agencies will clean up Jana and any other district sites.

Follow Kate on Twitter: @KGrumke 

Kate Grumke covers higher education and the many school districts in the region for St. Louis Public Radio.

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