Archive for Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Lead paint detected at Cordley

District officials say students not exposed to significant hazards

August 13, 2003


An analysis by Kansas Department of Health and Environment confirmed the presence of lead paint at Cordley School in Lawrence, district officials said Tuesday.

Testing of nearly 60 locations inside and outside the elementary school revealed potentially hazardous lead residue in three locations -- on the ground near an exterior door, in paint layers on that same door and in dust on a new classroom writing board.

District officials said the KDHE evaluation, while not comprehensive, did illustrate children in the school at 1837 Vt. weren't exposed to significant lead poisoning hazards.

"Any traces of lead paint found there have been minimal and have been dealt with," Supt. Randy Weseman said.

Students return to the school today for the start of the 2003-2004 academic year.

The lead-tainted exterior door on the northeast corner of the school will be replaced and the manufacturer of the writing board has been contacted about replacing that item, Weseman said.

While all water samples at Cordley tested below hazard level for lead, the school's staff has been directed to let one basement faucet run briefly before daily use as a precaution.

The issue of lead paint at Cordley surfaced during the past year while the Lawrence school board contemplated closing Centennial, Riverside and East Heights schools. The board shut down all three buildings in May.

Testing for lead

Opponents of consolidation questioned the wisdom of moving students from Centennial to Cordley, which was alleged to have contained lead-based paint based after independent testing by Lawrence physician John Hiebert and James Hilliard, a former Lawrence school board president.

Hilliard advocated examining schools for lead and testing Cordley children for lead poisoning. The school board rejected the idea of testing current and former students.

"I think it's sheer arrogance of their leadership," Hilliard said.

Hiebert said he was alarmed that students with autism had been in a Cordley classroom where flaking lead-based paint had been found.

The district welcomed KDHE staff members Bonnie Fritts and Tom Morey of the Kansas Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program to the school Aug. 1.

Rick Gammill, district director of special operations, safety and transportation, said it was safe to assume lead-based paint existed in any school built before 1978. That includes the following schools:¢ Lawrence High School¢ South, West, and Central junior high schools¢ Broken Arrow School¢ Cordley School¢ Deerfield School¢ East Heights School¢ Hillcrest School¢ Kennedy School¢ New York School¢ Pinckney School¢ Schwegler School¢ Sunset Hill School¢ Wakarusa Valley School¢ Woodlawn School

Fritts and Morey took dust wipes from classroom floors, windowsills, bookshelves and cabinets in the school. Water samples were taken from faucets and drinking fountains. Soil samples were gathered from the playground north of the building.

Readings with an X-ray Fluorescence Spectrum Analyzer, which detects lead in surface coatings, were taken in classrooms, rest rooms and the gymnasium.

Rick Gammill, the district's director of special operations, safety and transportation, said it could be assumed lead-based paint exists in any school built before 1978.

That list includes Lawrence High School; South, West and Central junior high schools; and Broken Arrow, Cordley, Deerfield, East Heights, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney, Schwegler, Sunset Hill, Wakarusa Valley and Woodlawn elementary schools.

Maintenance and training

Gammill said the key issue was whether surfaces at those buildings were correctly maintained.

"The school district is committed to proper cleaning and maintenance to eliminate any risks," he said.

Gammill said the district also was putting employees through training to improve their understanding of lead-safe work practices.

Cordley's interior was painted with latex this summer. District administrators said the work had nothing to do with complaints about lead paint in the building.

Lead has been shown to affect developing brains of children by causing learning and behavior problems. Children under age 6 are at most risk because they're more likely to eat paint flakes or come in contact with lead dust and stick their fingers in their mouths. Lead can affect unborn children if too much gets in the bodies of pregnant women as well as cause muscle pain, high blood pressure and memory loss in adults.

Meanwhile, a complaint filed by the parent of a Lawrence student assigned to Cordley is pending with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. Brent Garner, an unsuccessful candidate for school board, alleges Cordley doesn't comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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