Deer Park school closes for air, water testing Classes suspended to ease parents' worries about possible hazard

March 27, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Students at Deer Park Elementary School in Randallstown will get an early spring break starting today, after officials bowed to parental concern over a possible health hazard and closed the building for air and water testing.

At the request of the school superintendent, County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III and County Council Chairman Kevin B. Kamenetz yesterday directed county agencies to hire a consultant for an indoor air and water quality study.

Some parents at the Randallstown school have kept their children home in protest after learning that an antifreeze substance known as ethylene glycol was leaking into four classrooms.

In recent days, nearly 200 of the school's 500 students have been absent.

Parents said children have complained of illnesses that might be attributed to the substance or to improper cleaning done three years ago during a renovation to rid the school of other contaminants.

Representatives from the county's environmental protection agency and health department, and from the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health program visited Deer Park yesterday to consult with school administrators, said Acting Deputy Superintendent Robert H. Chapman 3rd, who also attended the meeting.

Donald I. Mohler, the school system's spokesman, said the decision to close the school was based on the advice of those agencies.

"We're really pleased that the county executive and county government are showing this kind of cooperation," he said.

"As a result, county government and school officials will get together to put a process in place so this kind of uneasiness won't occur again."

A group of Deer Park parents gathered at the school board meeting last night, prepared to speak about the school's problems. At that time, Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione told them the school would be closed early.

"We're glad that the school is closing early and we are hopeful they are going to do things right," said Michael Johnson, president of a parent committee organized to look into the building's problems.

"We really shouldn't have to go through these kinds of motions to get things done by people who are supposed to be advocates for our children," Mr. Johnson said.

Parent Lisa Cohen, who did not attend the meeting last night, said she would prefer that the school be kept open and testing be done during spring vacation as the system had originally planned.

"I think they should test next week," Mrs. Cohen said. "[Students] have missed too many days already."

Officials expect to have an analysis of the Deer Park test results by April 5.

While the same testing will be conducted at Timber Grove Elementary in Reisterstown -- where parents also have voiced concern over air quality -- plans have not been made to close that school early, Mr. Mohler said.

Pub Date: 3/27/96

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