GIRARD School officials consider locations

The latest round of environmental testing was conducted on Monday.
GIRARD -- The reopening of Girard Intermediate and Prospect Elementary schools is up in the air.
Clayton Group Services, an Akron-based environmental consultant, was at the intermediate school and attached elementary building Monday testing for the presence of formaldehyde, fiberglass, dust, mold, fungus and bacteria. The new intermediate school opened last fall.
Superintendent Anthony D'Ambrosio said test results for all but bacteria may be available by Wednesday. Bacteria results will take about two weeks.
When the schools reopen depends on heath officials, the superintendent said Monday.
When asked what will happen if the tests are positive, D'Ambrosio responded, "We haven't got to that point. We'll deal with it when we get the results."
D'Ambrosio said it's premature to consider closing the buildings for the remainder of the school year. 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.
James Dobson, assistant city health commissioner, said Monday that school officials are banking on opening the school windows with the warmer weather and returning the pupils.
"I know parents are not going to be satisfied with that," Dobson 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.
What's being done: D'Ambrosio said the district doesn't have many options for space. There are more than 900 pupils in the two buildings.
Although the buildings are attached, the superintendent said he doesn't expect any positive tests results in Prospect. In the meantime, he's exploring possible sites for intermediate classes.
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.
Ragozine said space is available at Girard High School and the former Liberty High School is also a possibility.
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.
While the buildings remain closed, pupils are not being charged for the absenteeism.
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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