Mercury at Central Early Childhood Center causes a stir

Central Early Childhood Center gym closed because of mercury in floors

Although it was not discussed in the public portion of the May 28 Deptford Township Board of Education meeting, news of mercury being found in the gymnasium floors of Central Early Childhood Center prompted a statement from Superintendent Arthur Dietz.

“The week of April 5, after hearing about issues in other districts, we decided to close our gymnasiums with rubberized floors in three schools and test them for safety. We communicated this step to the staff and the community on April 5. The gyms were closed that week and remain closed today.

“An environmental service company completed bulk sampling of the floors, meaning they cut and collected a 2-inch by 2-inch piece of each floor to test in a lab. The samples came back positive, so we decided to follow the recommendation of the environmental company to complete air quality testing. We communicated this step to the staff and community on April 24.

“We received the air quality results, which showed Mercury vapors present, but below the New Jersey Department of Health action limit of 8 micrograms per cubic meter of air. However, the environmental company recommends another round of air quality testing in the hot summer months when the levels could become most elevated. We will complete this second test this summer. The gyms will continue to remain closed as we await the results of that second test. We communicated this step to the staff and the community.

“Throughout this process we valued being completely honest, forthcoming, and timely in our communication with the community. Each community contact included a letter and, for the second and third contacts, the bulk sampling and air quality results, respectively.

“The safety of our students, staff, and community remains our top priority,” said Dietz.

In other news:

Heather Jackson, principal at Shady Lane Elementary School, gave an update on the school’s activities.

In their first year, the staff has had goals to increase student motivation and enrichment and intervention.

“We felt strongly that if students had relationships with the staff and wanted to come to school, we would have better success with their academics,” said Jackson.

The staff of Shady Lane has been working with the students to reach them in different ways, like the third-grade class using problem-solving skills to navigate an escape room challenge.

Kevin Kanauss, chief academic officer, was appointed as the affirmative action officer of the district for the 2019-2020 school year.

In addition to Kanauss’ appointment, Todd Reitzel and Valerie Gambale will come on as part of the affirmative action team. Reitzell will handle contract practices while Gambale will handle school and classroom practices, and Kanauss will lead the employment practices.

The affirmative action team is designed to evaluate the school district’s needs through assessment and try to develop a comprehensive equity plan for 2019 through 2022.

Next year’s Deptford High school seniors will be happy to know the 2020 senior trip to Walt Disney World from March 23 to 27 was approved by the BOE.

The next BOE meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 11 at Deptford Township High School, inside the cafeteria.