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Girard schools must be safe and students healthy



Published: Sat, February 9, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Girard health commissioner is still raising questions about the safety of the new Girard intermediate school and is complaining that the schools aren't cooperating with the health commission on medical reporting. Considering the apprehension with which many parents and teachers have regarded the new school, it's essential that Girard school officials do everything in their power to restore public confidence in the safety of the new intermediate school which has yet to re-open.

Dr. James Enyeart, in a letter to Girard School Superintendent Joseph Shoaf last month, complained that Shoaf was not communicating very well on the issue of re-opening the school.

The new Girard school had been opened last spring but was closed after teachers and parents complained of illnesses that they attributed to construction problems that resulted in apparent problems with air quality. Compounding the health issue was the revelation that the school had opened without an occupancy permit from the state.

The school remains closed, and members of the Girard Board of Education are facing lawsuits and a recall effort initiated by the parents of sickened children and those who support their concerns.

As we noted last year, the situation might never have reached the flash point were it not for the stonewalling by the board and then-Superintendent Anthony D'Ambrosio.

Backlash: Shoaf may be suffering the backlash generated by his predecessor.

Despite a letter that can only be seen as turning up the heat on the school issue, Enyeart has not been available to Vindicator writers. Shoaf, on the other hand, is explicit in his insistence that the school will not open until it's ready.

And what will determine readiness? Shoaf lists the following criteria:

"The architects [Ricchuti Balog & amp; Partners, who designed the school] have to say it's done. The testing company has to be convinced. Then, the Girard Board of Health, then the Ohio Department of Health and then the Girard Board of Education." He told The Vindicator, "It doesn't make sense any other way."

We would agree.

But we would also caution Shoaf and board members that despite the pending lawsuits they must remain open and forthcoming, providing information directly to all who have a stake in the Girard schools -- and that means teachers as well as disgruntled parents.

As far as Enyeart's legitimate concerns about other health issues -- such as immunization records and disease reporting -- we would suggest that the health commissioner and the superintendent sit down together soon and resolve their differences. Writing letters to each other may put the issues on the record, but it's a surefire way to guarantee inaction.




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