Deer Park parents question environmental testers' ability They claim ATEC is not best choice to check air

April 04, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Though testing has been completed at Deer Park Elementary School, parents were still arguing yesterday about the qualifications of the company examining air and water -- and some saw political undertones in the continuing furor.

Yesterday, parents from the Randallstown school's building committee demanded a meeting with County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger III over the hiring of ATEC Associates Inc. to do the testing.

The building was closed after parents complained of possible health hazards. They are demanding installation of portable classrooms if the school environment is found to be unhealthy.

Some parents said yesterday that information they received indicated that ATEC does not specialize in air-quality testing. They had asked that the work be done by Dr. Shirin DeSilva and her team of researchers, who conducted similar testing that led to the school's being closed for a $1.5 million renovation three years ago.

But Dr. DeSilva, who was on the county committee that selected ATEC and who directed the testing, said an attempt to reassemble the original team failed because some researchers were not available.

Dr. DeSilva said she has confidence in the testers.

Several parents said the protests were being encouraged by Dr. Bernitha George, vice president of the county NAACP, who has been a medical adviser to the building committee and is an outspoken opponent of the school superintendent, Dr. Anthony G. Marchione.

"I feel like our kids are being used as pawns," said Lisa Cohen, whose daughter attends Deer Park. "I think Dr. George is using our children in her fight against Dr. Marchione." Several others agreed with that assessment, but did not want to be named.

Dr. George said her involvement has nothing to do with her NAACP affiliation and called the charge "insulting to the parents who are concerned about their children being put in jeopardy."

County officials planned to meet with parents at the school at 6 p.m. today to announce results of the study.

Pub Date: 4/04/96

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