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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chemical agent drives students from South Shore

The Seattle Times reported today that the a second floor wing of the newly constructed South Shore school has been closed because students and staff in classes there have complained of a bad odor, itchy eyes, difficulty breathing, and rashes.

This is terrible, of course, and we all want the source of the problem discovered and corrected as soon as possible.

In the meantime the story revealed a number of ironies. A group of students came into the library crying and holding their chests, interrupting a meeting in which District officials were telling student families that the school was perfectly safe.

As we know, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's daughter attends that school, and so do at least three of Board Director Patu's grandchildren.

A number of families are keeping their children home until the situation is corrected.

Seattle Public Schools has a poor record for interior environmental concern.

7 comments:

Sahila said...

what p****s me off is that South Shore gets the attention, while Nova doesnt, and Nova kids are working in a much more dangerous - in terms of the magnitude of a potential catastrophe - environment....

Where's the Seattle Times piece about the jerry-rigged, "tragedy waiting to happen" science labs at Nova with the portable sinks and the electric bunsen burners that short out the rest of the school when they're used, and the hazardous materials cupboard right next to the only exit, and about how using the art room kiln also shorts out the rest of the school's electricity supply?

This has been going on for months and the District sure isnt in a hurry to do what it must to ensure their safety, or to fulfil its promise to Nova, made when it moved Nova out of the Mann Building, to provide appropriate science labs...

And what about all other schools making do with shoddy, shabby, dangerous environments?

How come South Shore warrants the publicity and not a word about any of the other schools?

owlhouse said...

Sahila,
I totally appreciate the concern for Nova, but I am really feeling for the South Shore folks. Environmental contaminants from new construction can be extremely difficult to pin point. Reactions and physical symptoms can look different in different people- masking the sustained impact of off-gassing and the like. I do hope SPS can address the situation and students return to a safe and healthy building ASAP.

On a related note, I'd love to see some of the interest and enthusiasm in "green roofs" (such as that proposed for BG) extend to an environmental awareness and advocacy for all our buildings, inside and out. We often hear that the "cost" of "greener" materials is out of budget. I'd like to see some forward thinking, recognizing the long term cost savings in reduced illness, waste reduction and such. And while I'm at it, I'd like onsite gardens and composting, solar panels, gray water systems, lunches cooked (from scratch) on site, and yellow wagons pulled by unicorns...

Really though, this is a frightening scenario. I hope it will be resolved w/ out further complication.

seattle said...

Sahila it doesn't sound like the district did much to address/fix the issue at South Shore at all. The children of SC have been experiencing effects of the "environmental contamination" since January, and as of yet the cause has still not been identified. The media has probably lighted a fire under the district's butts on this one -maybe you could leak some info about NOVA to the press too?? But then everyone would say why only NOVA and SC, after all most schools in the district have long lists of overdue maintenance and some hazardous conditions.

No need to constantly target New School - it is really not warranted, especially in this case.

Sahila said...

Sully - I'm not a NOVA parent and I have hesitated taking this to the press without first hand knowledge and having seen it physically for myself... not because I dont believe that the situation is as it has been reported to me, but because I couldnt give the press the details they would want...

Additionally, I know some Nova parents and asked that they go to the press with this and one of the responses I got was that the general feeling amongst the community was to keep a low profile and not to rock the boat too much.

Many are focused on getting their kids and teachers settled in the new (old) building and finding their way through a very difficult co-housing situation with SBOC.

As I understand it, they are worried about their relationship with the District; they feel very vulnerable (after the closure of Summit and AAA and the 'restructuring' of AS#1) and are concerned that any complaining will lead to repercussions, such as the District closing their programme and disbanding the school...

With all the above, I dont feel I have the right (but do I have the duty?) to go speak to the press about the Nova situation...

Charlie Mas said...

I am a member of the NOVA community so I hear the voices that shush complaints and direct us to keep a low profile. Maybe if we're really quiet and still they will just forget that we're here - and that would be the best outcome for us, wouldn't it?

I heard the same talk in the APP community. How did it work out for them?

I think it's odd for school communities to wish to be ignored and forgotten by the District. These are the same people who later justify their strategy based on the belief that the District doesn't understand our community and can only do it harm.

Gee. Maybe they don't understand our community because we don't explain ourselves. Maybe they do us harm because they don't understand the community. Maybe they keep doing us harm because we don't complain so they don't know that they've done us harm.

I'm just sayin' "Maybe".

Maybe if we showed them what we do, how we do it, and what we need they could actually help instead of hinder our work. Maybe if we told them when they were hurting us they would stop it.

Maybe.

Sahila said...

And I have often thought that the schools ought all to band together (not just an alt school community coalition) but all schools band together and begin to pressure the District for the kind of change we all need for our kids... buildings that are not death traps for example...

I think that EVERY community within SPS has something major going on that needs adjusting and that the District is not doing its best to address...

Can you imagine the influence we would have if we all spoke to the District at the same time, instead of each little community having to try to get itself heard/noticed/respected?

Age old military and social control strategy - divide and conquer...

Such a simple solution - unite and put on pressure....

Guess I can dream, right?

grousefinder said...

Chlorine gas (or Bromine) from the pool attached to the building is a possible culprit. It may be the outside air (OSA) dampers on the school supply fan take in the Rainier Beach Pool exhaust fan discharge air. Or, the chlorine storage for the pool is located near the same OSA intake. It wouldn't be the first time this has happened with a public pool in Seattle.

If the chlorine gas is exposed to heat (like an electric OSA preheat element), the gas created would cause the symptoms mentioned in the press.

This is only speculation, but I did this type of indoor air quality study for years. If I were the District, I would check the prevailing winds on the days complaints were noted.