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Jana Elementary parents beg district to keep school together after radioactive waste shuts down school

The Hazelwood School District said Jana Elementary School will shift to virtual learning for the rest of the semester before redistricting.

FLORISSANT, Mo. — Jana Elementary School is officially closing its doors next week because of radioactive waste.

The Hazelwood School District said Jana Elementary School will shift to virtual learning for the rest of the semester before redistricting, according to an email sent to parents.

5 On Your Side talked to parents scared for more than just their own children, but for their entire community.

"Could they get cancer? Could they get some other kind of disease that they can't be cured from?" Patrice Strickland said.

Patrice Strickland is one parent still filled with questions.

"I didn't think that it was safe, I didn't think that the building was safe," she said.

Once Strickland heard there was even the slightest possibility Jana Elementary had radioactive waste, she put her kids in virtual learning back in August.

"I didn't know anything about it until the reports came out in June. Then I started looking into it and I was like, oh my gosh, this has been going on for a really long time," she said.

The Boston Chemical Corp. found high levels of radioactive waste inside Jana Elementary and on its playground. Parents packed a school board meeting Tuesday night, where the Hazelwood District said it would close the school next week.

"When we initially approached this subject back in August to explain our concerns we were told we were being too reactionary," Jana Elementary PTA President Ashley Bernaugh said. 

Bernaugh has worked tirelessly for months to get testing done in the first place.

"At no point in time, even from the August letter, did we think redistricting was going to be the very first place we went," she said.

Results are in, and the school is closing, but she said there must be conversations on how to keep the Jana community together.

"We really want to come back to the table, with alternate solutions, and be a part of those kinds of solutions," Bernaugh said.

Parents like Strickland also want Jana Elementary staff and students to stay together. She said her fears don't stop with her own children.

"I still have to think about the people I'd leave behind. It's just not on my heart to say "Oh, those kids don't matter." To me, they all matter," she said.

These are the steps the Hazelwood School District outlined and emailed to parents on Wednesday, October 19th: 

"The administration will move forward with Jana Elementary converting to all
virtual instruction for the remainder of the first semester of the 2022/2023 school
year, (using the Hazelwood Connect Model with teachers at an alternative District
school) until details regarding redistricting current Jana Elementary students have
been completed.

  • The two Jana Pre-k classrooms will remain in person, but will be transferred to Barrington Elementary effective Monday, October 24.
  • The administration will review redistricting options to be put in place prior to the second semester of the 2022/2023 school year, with a target of November 28 for students and staff to report to redistricted schools, if feasible.
  •  Parents and staff will be officially notified on Wednesday, October 19 of the
    transition to all virtual instruction to become effective Monday, October 24, and the district’s plans to redistrict Jana Elementary students into current schools by November 28 if feasible, but no later than the beginning of the second semester of 2022-2023 school year.
  • During the week of November 14-18, parents and staff will receive final notifications of new school assignments. (Notifications will be provided earlier if the information is available.)
  • Parent and staff meetings will be held for the Jana parents and staff over the next few weeks to provide additional information and respond to questions.
  • On November 28, the first day of the week we return from Fall Break and
    Thanksgiving, students and staff will report to their redistricted schools.

The Hazelwood School District Board of Education will be working with our legal counsel to communicate to the appropriate agencies responsible the necessity to immediately clean up and remediate any and all hazardous waste at Jana Elementary and any other District sites. In addition, the Board is also authorizing a study of Jana and any places made aware of need."

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