Crisis Unfolds at a Hazelwood Elementary School

New tests reveal high levels of radioactive toxins at Jana Elementary School

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Micki Morris

Radioactive waste found at Jana Elementary causes the Hazelwood District to shut down Jana Elementary and redistrict schools.

Meghan Lynch, Reporter

Jana Elementary, a school located in Florissant, Missouri, has recently had testing reveal high levels of radioactive lead, polonium (the most dangerous radioactive substance), radium, and other toxins inside the school. The places that were contaminated include the school’s kitchen, boiler room, gym, and playground soil. 

Jana Elementary is located extremely close to Coldwater Creek, which was contaminated by radioactive waste after the World War II Manhattan Project. This contaminated creek poses a serious hazard for the children who attend Jana Elementary School in the Hazelwood School District. Radioactive toxins like this can contribute to an array of health issues, such as increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. 

On Tuesday, Oct. 18, a Hazelwood School Board meeting was held to discuss the issue and clear up any confusion. The district has decided to take action to ensure the safety of the staff and students of Jana Elementary. As of Monday, Oct. 24, all grade levels kindergarten through fifth grade will be moved to virtual schooling for the remainder of the semester. The two pre-K classes at Jana will be relocated to Barrington Elementary on the same Monday.

If something happens to my daughter that she has never experienced…she’s going to be traumatized for the rest of her life.”

— Christina Smith, who has a daughter enrolled at Jana Elementary

“Please figure out something that’s really going to be better for the children and the teachers,” said Cheryl Lane, whose children have been in virtual school since January. She’s had many problems with it, including a lack of proper accommodations for her child with special education needs. She wanted to express her apprehension of Hazelwood’s plan for virtual school. 

The Hazelwood School District will also review redistricting options before the second semester of the 2022-2023 school year. Their goal is to have all staff and students report to redistricted schools by Nov. 28 if possible. If not possible, schools will be redistricted no later than the beginning of the second semester.

“If something happens to my daughter that she has never experienced…she’s going to be traumatized for the rest of her life,” said mother Christina Smith, who has a daughter enrolled at Jana. Smith voiced concerns about her daughter going to certain schools when the redistricting occurs and the safety level of said schools.  

It was also announced that the Board of Education will be pushing for a quick and effective clean-up from the government.

Not everyone was satisfied with the course of action that the school district is taking. Whether it be redistricting, communication, or speed, many parents have expressed their grievances about the school board’s plan. 

Kimberly Anderson is a guardian of three Jana Elementary students and someone who was worried about the district’s priorities. 

 “When the tests came out on Friday, the plan should’ve been done on Friday,” Anderson said.

Others involved, like former-student of the Hazelwood School District Karen Nichol, are extremely grateful for what the school board’s doing. Nichol has developed several autoimmune disorders due to the radioactive waste coming from Coldwater Creek. She expressed how much this action and this plan means to her, as someone who has suffered the effects of radiation all her life.

“I say thank you because no one protected me,” Nichol said. “No one stood up for me… You’re going to save lives. You’re doing the right thing.”

At the time of this writing, there are going to be more meetings scheduled to discuss Jana Elementary and the radioactive waste found within the school.