FLORISSANT, Mo. — Jana Elementary, a school in Florissant that gained national attention after reports of radioactive contamination at its site, is not expected to reopen.
The Hazelwood School District made the announcement this week at its school board meeting.
School leaders also uploaded a document announcing the closure on its website. It reads, "There is no expectation that Jana Elementary will reopen and students and staff will remain at their current schools."
This news comes months after conflicting reports detecting different levels of contamination at the school.
Jana PTA President Ashley Bernaugh said they assumed the school wouldn't reopen but parents are still flabbergasted.
5 On Your Side was the one who broke the news to Bernaugh. She claimed the school didn't send an email to Jana parents.
"Learning of anything second hand, rather than directly from the district, does not rise to the strategic expectations of parent engagement. I expect every level of outreach possible, that is best, but I applaud the board having the conversation. It's the safest thing to do," Bernaugh said.
However, she remains optimistic.
"That statement doesn't say forever and it doesn't say they will tear it down. I'm on the hopeful side of things," she said.
5 On Your Side learned this news just 24 hours after U.S. Senator Josh Hawley spoke on the U.S. Senate floor Wednesday afternoon and sought justice for the parents, students and staff of Jana Elementary School, who live in Florissant near St. Louis.
Senator Hawley reacted to the news by saying, "This is such a travesty for these kids and these parents, and I understand they aren’t comfortable reopening and that’s because they have a test that shows radioactive material in and around the school."
Hawley explained his proposed piece of legislation would order the federal government to clean up the site and if it can’t clean it up, it would use funds to build a new school.
"It would reimburse them for the testing, and it would also provide the funding to build a new school," he said. "Congress can fix this by just mandating that it be cleaned up. I will hold up the nominations for Department of Energy, who’s responsible for this, and will take this as long as it takes."
Bernaugh said she believes, this could be a possibility for next steps forward.
"We really believe even if it’s a new Jana Elementary school that has major opportunities," she added.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program on Thursday sent the following statement to 5 On Your Side:
"Results of USACE St. Louis District’s testing showed no presence of radioactive material above naturally occurring background levels concluding that from a radiological standpoint, the school is safe. USACE remains actively engaged in activities to address community concerns about radioactive material along Coldwater Creek. In addition to currently finalizing the reports that document the comprehensive sampling efforts conducted inside and outside of Jana Elementary School in late 2022, USACE is also advancing ongoing remediation efforts along Coldwater Creek authorized under the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP)."
- On Aug. 5, 2022, parents at Jana Elementary School received a letter saying that on Jan. 27, 2022, the district was notified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that soil sampling showed a presence of low-level radioactive contamination on the banks of Coldwater Creek, which is on the edge of Jana's property boundary.
- A private group, Boston Chemical Data Corp. arrived in St. Louis on Aug. 15, 2022, to test Jana Elementary, to get results for a class action lawsuit.
- Boston Chemical Data Corp. officially released the report on Oct. 10. It indicated high levels of radioactive Polonium, also known as Pb 210 inside the school building and on the playground areas.
- Jana's PTA got a hold of the information on Oct. 12, presented the information in a meeting to the rest of the PTA and broke the news on Oct. 14 to school families and Hazelwood released a statement right after.
- In October 2022, teachers packed up their classrooms in a matter of 48 hours to conduct virtual learning.
- On Nov. 9, 2022, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said preliminary results of contamination testing at Jana Elementary School showed no levels of radiation higher than “the level of radioactivity Mother Nature" already provides.
- On Nov. 11, 2022, school officials asked a third testing group SCI Engineering Inc. to do even more samples within the district: Hazelwood Central High School football field was one site. A district spokesperson confirmed this is being done out of an abundance of caution because a former employee made a report saying Jana soil may have been used to level the ground more than 25 years ago.
- On Nov. 15, 2022, SCI Engineering, determined the levels of radioactivity found at Jana Elementary School are safe.
- On Nov. 28, 2022, Jana students reported to one of five different schools.
- On Jan. 23, 2023, the board sent a letter to the Department of Energy asking them to test the entire district, as they can determine what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can test.
St. Louis was a big part of the Manhattan Project.
Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, located north of downtown St. Louis, processed a majority of the uranium for the building of the first atomic bomb.
The waste from Mallinckrodt was transported and stored at a site north of St. Louis Lambert International Airport from 1947 until the late 1960s.
It was then purchased by Continental Mining and Milling Company and moved to a site half a mile away.
The radioactive waste was not stored in a protective manner, and this resulted in the washing of radioactive material into nearby Coldwater Creek.