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Staten Island School PCB Problem Infuriates Parents

Want Building Be Closed, Despite City's Decision To Keep It Open
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P.S. 36 (credit: CBS 2)

P.S. 36 (credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS) — Toxic troubles have hit a school on Staten Island after elevated PCB levels were detected at P.S. 36 in Annadale.


1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports

Long-term exposure to the chemical is known to cause cancer and other serious health problems. Administrators responded by sealing-off two classrooms and the school was open for business Monday despite attempts by parents to keep the school entirley off limits.

The toxic problems have outraged parents, reports CBS 2’s Demetra Ganias said.

“I think it’s a disgrace that this school is still open,” one parent said.

Throughout the day, parents arrived to pick up kids early.

“I really don’t know what’s going on. They said it’s not safe,” one parent said.

“I got the text message saying keep your son home, it’s not safe, show the mayor we’re the boss,” parent Christine Velasquez said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office told the United Federation of Teachers: “We do not believe there is a health concern that warrants the closure of PS 36 R.”

But a union representative for the teachers disagreed, saying every light in the building must be replaced.

“The fixtures need to be changed. They need to be changed as soon as possible, in as short a time as possible,” UFT rep Sean Rotkowicz said.

The mayor’s office said more air testing needs to be done, but parents worry that before a recent test, the windows were left open, just like they were on Monday evening, so anything possibly toxic was diffused, creating no accurate picture of how dangerous the school is.

Jenna and Adam Massoud didn’t even go to school Monday. Their father said he was not taking any chance that his children will get sick.

“Which is going to happen. It’s a ticking time bomb,” Scott Massoud said.

“Maybe not today or tomorrow, but 10, 20, 30 years from now, no one knows. Not knowing is a scary thing,” another parent added.

There was a meeting at the school Sunday night for administrators to answer parents’ questions, but until the test results are released, some parents said they won’t be satisfied.

“It says ‘should all the lighting fixtures in your school be removed?’ And the question is answered right here. It says ‘if your school was built before 1979, yes, if your school has not had a complete lighting retrofit since 1979.’ So that’s the only answer here. The whole school has to be redone,” one woman at the meeting said.

“Our message to the city is close the school and fix the condition; change the lighting fixtures, get it over with and move on to the next school,” PTA Treasurer Ellen Ebrahim told 1010 WINS. “Forget the money issue and just take care of it we’re all taxpayers and this is the most important thing — the children.”

Ebrahim said that changing the lighting fixtures is a simple procedure that should take no more than 10 minutes.

“We want to make it clear to the mayor’s office and to whoever else has the authority to do such a thing that it’s not acceptable for our children to be going into a school one more day now that we know that there’s a potential risk to their health,” PTA President Marie Stackhouse, who has two children in the school, said.

Angry parents surrounded and berated school officials looking for answers.

“We’re not getting any answers, it’s the same thing over and over,” one father said. “Is the school safe for our children? They can’t guarantee us that the school is safe, it’s just unacceptable.”

Health officials warn that more than 700 schools across the city could have the same problem because of old light fixtures.

Crews were working to remove the PCB. The city said it will monitor the air in the rest of the building.

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