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GIRARD Intermediate building closed for remainder of school year



Published: Tue, May 1, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The latest round of environmental testing was conducted Monday.

By TIM YOVICH

and DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- Girard Intermediate School will remain closed for the remainder of this school year.

Prospect Elementary will reopen when its ongoing cleaning is finished.

School officials announced Intermediate's closing this morning, saying the decision was made by the board of education in conjunction with the city board of health.

Clayton Group Services, an Akron-based environmental consultant, was at the intermediate school and attached elementary building Monday testing for formaldehyde, fiberglass, dust, mold, fungus and bacteria. The new school opened last fall.

"It's just precautionary," Superintendent Anthony D'Ambrosio said of the closing this morning.

Some test results may be available by Wednesday, but other test results may not be available for a few weeks he said.

Where they'll go: Fourth- and fifth-graders will move to Tod Woods Intermediate School, which closed when the new school opened this year. Sixth-graders will go to the Girard Junior/Senior High School.

The time frame hasn't been determined. Work started today to get the classrooms ready, the superintendent said.

"I'd love to get this done by Friday if I can, but I don't know if that's possible," D'Ambrosio said. "We're here with the teachers brainstorming right now."

James Dobson, assistant city health commissioner, said school officials plan to seal off the part of the intermediate school connected to Prospect so that school may be reopened.

D'Ambrosio said he doesn't know what will happen if tests come back positive.

Summer break begins June 7.

What happened: Dr. Richard R. Ragozine, board of education president, told parents at a Monday evening board meeting at city hall that the board knew in October that a few people had relatively mild symptoms, but complaints "began to really multiply in March."

"I am one of those whose symptoms have now become chronic, and I have to go to a pulmonary specialist because it's affected my breathing," Tina Brown, a sixth-grade teacher at the intermediate school, told the board.

"Those symptoms that those kids were exhibiting kept increasing. The problem was because they varied so much, nobody would believe that any of them were related," she said.

Cathy Ross, president of Girard Concerned Citizens, warned school officials that parents won't return their children to either school until they are ruled safe.

There are more than 900 pupils in the intermediate and elementary school buildings.

Although the buildings are attached, the superintendent said he doesn't expect any positive test results in Prospect.

Ross said the parents would help move equipment such as desks to another location, such as the old Tod Woods School, city gymnasium and Girard Free Library.

Finding the cause: Ross, who has been critical of the school administration for not notifying parents of the symptoms until March, said it now appears the administrators are doing everything possible to find the cause of the illnesses.

Regardless of the test results, D'Ambrosio said, the entire ventilation system in the intermediate school will eventually be replaced. If anything, it would give parents peace of mind, he added.

Pupils will not have to make up the school days lost due to the closure of the buildings.

A number of pupils and staff in the intermediate building have complained of itchy and burning eyes, headaches and vomiting since last October when the heat was turned on.

Prospect was closed after classes Friday with the intermediate building because some parents said their children had similar symptoms.




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