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WARREN Judge says Prospect school can open



Published: Sat, August 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



An attorney representing the board says there are 'no health hazards' at the elementary building in Girard.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Prospect Elementary School in Girard will open Monday, despite protests from several parents.

Judge Peter Kontos said during a court hearing Friday that the school can open as scheduled.

About 50 parents whose children attend Prospect Elementary contend that the school poses health problems because it is connected to the troubled intermediate school.

The parents have filed a $30 million lawsuit against the school board. The judge was also asked to prohibit the school from opening Monday. The parents wanted their children to go to a different school because of concerns about the children's health. Some have claimed their children became ill last year while attending the school.

Atty. Lou Damiani, who represents the board, stated that tests showed there are "no health hazards" at the elementary building.

Inspection: The board attorneys agreed to allow the parents to hire their own expert to inspect the building.

"This will be done at the parents' expense," said Atty. Don Hanni, who along with Atty. Sebastian Rucci represents the parents. Hanni said he did not know when an inspection would be done.

"The parents should send their children to school and monitor their health," Rucci said. "If there is a problem, we can come back to court."

Several parents, however, said they are reluctant to send their children to the school. One said she would closely monitor the situation.

"I'm going to the school every day with my children to make sure they are OK," said Mary Dean. "I am a stay-at-home mom so I can do this and I will check on the children of my friends who can't go to the school."

Dean said her children were sick most of last school year.

"They would be sick Monday through Friday and then they would start to feel better over the weekend," Dean said.

Both Girard Intermediate and Prospect elementary schools were closed May 1 by the board, but Prospect reopened three days later.

The intermediate school will remain closed when school begins Tuesday, school officials said. They have not said when the school will reopen.

Alleging misconduct: Several parents also filed a lawsuit last week in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court asking that the board members be removed because they didn't inform parents of the reported health problems at the school.

Damiani filed a motion Friday to have that case dismissed. The motion states that the complaint is defective because it was not signed by the qualified electors but by the attorneys.

Damiani cited case law that states that the complaint must be signed by those who signed the petition, not their attorneys.

The motion further states that the complaint fails to "allege facts which, if proven, would constitute, misconduct in office.

"The only conduct alleged to be gross neglect of duty is the conduct in failing to inform, allow public discussion, and in allowing students to attend the adjacent elementary school," the motion states.

"There is no statutory duty regarding ... these alleged deficiencies."

Rucci disagrees and says he believes he can prove misconduct when the case is heard.

The motion also attaches affidavits from several people whose signatures appear on the petition stating that they were "misled" when they were asked to sign and were not given any information to read that explained the petition.

Odath Lambert of Stull Avenue states that his name appears on the petition but that he did not sign it.

Judge McKay says Rucci and Hanni will have until Sept. 5 to respond to the motion. A hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 7.




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