Mom says she won't send son back to Franklin elementary school

(Photo: WTHR)
Franklin Presser Monday
Mom taking son out of Franklin school
Published:
Updated:

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WTHR) - 13 Investigates continues to follow developing news in Franklin. School leaders released new test results after a cancer-causing toxin was previously found in Webb and Needham Elementary Schools last week.

Those test results led to the district closing both schools ahead of schedule for Spring break.

The district said Friday that both schools will be open for students on Monday after another round of tests this week showed some of the unsafe levels of TCE had gone down.

When those students go back to class next week, Raquel Rodriguez's 6-year-old son, Alexander, won't be one of them.

"Nope, not sending him back Monday, said Rodriguez. "I don't feel safe about it."

The stay-at-home mom still has too many questions after testing done at Webb and Needham Elementary schools in early March found unsafe levels of the cancer causing chemical TCE.

Rodriguez's son is a kindergartner at Webb.

"He's been exposed to whatever for too long and I'm not having it," said Rodriguez.

The district ran new tests at Needham and Webb this week after closing both schools early last week.

Late Friday afternoon, the district released results from its latest round of tests. The district reported 44 air tests showed no toxic chemicals detected.

At Webb Elementary, two of seven sub slab tests, tests under the school, were still above the safe screening levels, but at Needham, none of the 10 tests were above the levels.

The district released a statement Friday addressing the test results from under the school at Webb, that still showed above safe screening levels in two spots there.

It said in part:

"FCS remains committed to ensuring student and staff safety by taking proactive steps to address contaminants under the slabs. This issue can be remedied with the preemptive mitigation step of installing a sub-slab depressurization system. Preemptive mitigation activities will take place outside of the regularly scheduled school day. We are also planning another monitoring event before the end of the school year to confirm the indoor air remains safe."

"At this point, I don't know what they can really say to me to make be like, 'ok, yeah,'" said Rodriguez.

That's why come Monday, Rodriguez will become her son's teacher. She's already broken the news to him.

"I said, 'Xander, I have some news for you. Mommy's going to home school you.' He went, 'But I like my school.' I said, 'I know. I like your school too.' But I said, 'There are some dangerous things in the air that they're testing for and I don't want you to get sick,'" Rodriguez added.

The district distributed this message on Friday:

Franklin Community Schools has had extensive conversations with environmental experts including EnviroForensics, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The data, including all 44 indoor air samples showing no detections, provides strong evidence the air in the schools is safe. Franklin Community Schools looks forward to welcoming students and staff back from Spring Break on Monday, April 1st.

On Wednesday, March 20, Franklin Community Schools received results from the follow-up sub-slab vapor sampling performed under winter seasonal conditions at Needham and Webb Elementary. On Saturday, March 23, EnviroForensics started additional sampling.

EnviroForensics collected 20 indoor air samples paired with 10 additional follow-up sub-slab samples at Needham Elementary and 24 indoor air samples paired with seven additional follow-up sub-slab samples at Webb. EnviroForensics also screened all accessible floor drains and collected air samples from five floor drains at each school. The indoor samples included 8-hour samples on Saturday followed by 24-hour samples on Sunday into Monday. The results of all 44 indoor air samples showed no detection of PCE, TCE, or any other chemical of concern at either Webb or Needham Elementary Schools.

The sub-slab sampling results were similar to the March 9th winter worst-case sampling event but were lower overall. All 10 sub-slab samples at Needham came back below IDEM screening levels. Five of the seven sub-slab samples at Webb came back below IDEM screening levels. One air sample collected from a floor drain within Webb detected a low level of PCE at a concentration significantly below IDEM screening levels. All other drains in both schools were non-detect. The 44 non-detect indoor air sample results give assurance that the air at Needham and Webb is safe.

FCS remains committed to ensuring student and staff safety by taking proactive steps to address contaminants under the slabs. This issue can be remedied with the preemptive mitigation step of installing a sub-slab depressurization system. Preemptive mitigation activities will take place outside of the regularly scheduled school day. We are also planning another monitoring event before the end of the school year to confirm the indoor air remains safe.

Dr. Clendening and FCS will continue to rely on recommendations from the experts (EnviroForensics and guidelines from the EPA, IDEM and ATSDR). The EPA and IDEM have indicated that preemptive mitigation is within the acceptable guidelines. In the interest of student and staff safety as well as a long-term resolution to the sub-slab sampling results, FCS will move forward with preemptive mitigation.

FCS will post the full sampling results to our website later today as soon as we receive them.

Needham and Webb Vapor Intrusion Results

Needham and Webb Floor Drain Results