Missouri school to stay closed after contamination scare
Mar 23, 2023, 2:03 PM
(Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)
A Missouri grade school that was shut down last year amid concerns of possible radioactive contamination will not reopen, the school district said Thursday.
Jana Elementary School, in the St. Louis County town of Florissant, closed in October after a private study indicated the presence of contamination in classrooms, the playground and elsewhere. The study was funded by lawyers whose clients were suing over radioactive waste in Coldwater Creek, which runs near the school.
Though a follow-up study by the Army Corps of Engineers and a third study by SCI Engineering found no signs of contamination, the school never reopened.
A statement from the Hazelwood School District said the board and administration recognize the school’s closure and relocation of children and staff to other schools hasn’t been easy.
“However, there is no expectation that Jana Elementary will reopen, and students and staff will remain at their current schools. At the same time, we are encouraged by the resilience our Hazelwood School District community has shown throughout this season of change and uncertainty,” the statement read.
There are no plans to build a new school to replace Jana Elementary, according to Jordyn Elston, the district spokeswoman. Redistricting that occurred after the school’s closure will be permanent, she said.
The school opened in 1970 and sits in the flood plain of Coldwater Creek, which was contaminated with radioactive waste generated when Mallinckrodt Chemical processed uranium in the 1940s and 1950s for atomic weapons. The waste was initially stored at Lambert Airport, near the creek, then later trucked to an industrial area that also borders the creek.
The site near the airport has largely been cleaned up, but remediation of the creek is expected to continue for another 15 years.
The contamination finding in a report released in October by Boston Chemical Data Corp. created enough concern that the school board closed the school and moved classes online. The district moved staff and the school’s approximate 400 students, 80% of whom are Black, to other schools.
Teams from the Corps of Engineers’ St. Louis office tested the school’s interior as well as soil around it in late October. Corps officials said they found no evidence of radioactive material above what would be naturally occurring.
“From a radiological standpoint, the school is safe,” Col. Kevin Golinghorst, St. Louis District commander for the Corps of Engineers, said at the time.
The Hazelwood School District then ordered a third round of testing from an engineering firm. That study in November also found no harmful levels of radioactive material.