Officials Meet With Parents to Address School Air Quality Problems

The Hartford City Council met with state officials and parents of Clark Elementary School students Wednesday night to address air quality concerns that have prompted an indefinite shutdown of the school.

Air samples taken over winter break revealed levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, not recommended for children ages five and under. The toxic chemical has been classified as a human carcinogen and exposure could adversely affect the human immune and nervous systems, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Authorities have yet to identify a source of the PCBs, and officials say it’s unclear when students will be allowed back in the school building. For the time being, Clark School students are attending classes at one of three neighboring schools.

Experts attending Wednesday's meeting at the Wish School assured families that students and staff at the Clark School are safe.

"Are children going to have health effects? Is there a current health risk? We don't think so," said Brian Toal with the Connecticut Department of Public Health. "We're almost 200 times below [the PCB level] where we would see a risk."

School officials hope another round of test results to be returned Friday will give them enough information to identify the source of the chemicals and come up with a plan to remove them.

On Wednesday night the school district held an open house at Wish School, one of the schools Clark students are now attending.

Mille Soto, who has two children who attend the Clark School, said at Wednesday night’s meeting that she’s frustrated her kids are confined to a single classroom all day every day at their temporary location.

"All they don't do in that room is use the bathroom and eat. I don't think it's fair,” she said. “I think every child has the right to take gym, has the right to take art, come out of the room, walk, do exercise. It's not right. They're not in a prison. They're in a school."

School officials said they're working to remedy that, but their top priority has been making sure students have a place to learn in the interim.

Another open house is scheduled for next Wednesday at the Wish School.

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