GIRARD SCHOOLS Officials address parents' concerns

A letter from the city health department says there's no reason to keep Prospect Elementary School closed.
GIRARD -- School officials have tried to convince parents that Prospect Elementary School is safe, but some parents have remained skeptical.
Superintendent Anthony D'Ambrosio and Robert Foley, intermediate principal, addressed a meeting for parents and pupils Thursday evening in the high school auditorium. Some 500 people attended.
D'Ambrosio said about 180 of the 518 pupils enrolled at Prospect were absent Thursday, the day that building reopened with city health department approval, and he attributed the low attendance to parents' still being concerned about that building's indoor environment, he said.
"Attendance was not well, but the day at school went very well,'' he said.
The intermediate school, where tests have been conducted for formaldehyde, fiberglass, dust, mold, fungus and bacteria, will remain closed for the rest of this school year.
Here were problems: Many pupils and staff in the newly opened intermediate school complained of itchy and burning eyes, headaches and vomiting since the heat was turned on in October.
Some parents said their children attending the adjoining Prospect Elementary School suffered similar symptoms. Both buildings were closed after classes Friday.
School officials circulated to parents attending the meeting a letter dated Thursday from James Dobson, deputy city health commissioner, to Dr. Richard Ragozine, school board president, saying Prospect has been sealed off, isolated from the intermediate school and twice cleaned and disinfected.
Clayton Group Services of Akron, an environmental consultant, has found Prospect's indoor air quality acceptable and "there are no legitimate reasons" to keep the building closed, the letter said.
Testing continues concerning problems at the intermediate school, which so far haven't been found dangerous, but need further attention and can probably be resolved by fall, the letter said.
This morning, intermediate school pupils in grades four and five were to report to Tod Woods School, and sixth-graders to the high school.
What parents said: Lorrie Danko said she kept her first-grade son, Josh, out of Prospect Thursday and is attempting to enroll him in an adjacent school district.
"I don't feel it's safe," she said. "He's had respiratory problems all year -- a cough that won't go away. He's had off and on rashes,'' she said.
Another son, Joey, an intermediate school fifth-grader, is to return today to Tod, where he's attended school previously.
"As far as Tod Woods, I don't know why it was closed down before," said Sonja Raymond, whose daughter Kari is a first-grader at Prospect, and daughter Kirsten, is a fourth-grader from the intermediate school. Kari attended Prospect Thursday and had no complaints, Ms. Raymond said.
The intermediate teachers will "make a crummy situation the best they can. We've got 25 days to get through, and we're going to do it. They're going to have class like they've had it before. I'm not worried about my staff, I'm not worried about your kids responding to this challenge,'' Foley told the parents.
School officials will attempt to separate sixth-graders from the rest of the pupils in the high school as much as possible, he said.
Although the Prospect and intermediate buildings adjoin, D'Ambrosio said a drywall barrier has been erected between them and parents need no longer be concerned about the indoor environment at Prospect. In response to a parent's question, he said he'd send his child to Prospect.
In response to a parent's question, Foley said he would ask teachers to do everything possible to be fair in grading pupils whose academic performance may have suffered due to their illnesses.
Busing: At Thursday evening's meeting, school officials issued bus schedules, and Foley said intermediate pupils living near Tod would be walking to school. Some nearby sixth-graders will likely walk to the high school, according to the handouts.
Field day and most scheduled field trips will be held, Foley said. Band and the band concert are canceled for intermediate pupils because there is no place to practice, he said.
Padlocks were snipped with bolt cutters, and teachers removed and bagged contents of all intermediate school lockers, and pupils will find their belongings in their new homerooms, he said. They won't have lockers in their new schools, he added.

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