LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Students and parents from Pinelands Regional School District are facing uncertainty as school officials announced the closure of the high school for fifth time in two weeks.
“I don’t want to send my daughter back to that school,” Parent Kelly Maher of Little Egg Harbor Township said. “I think this is a good thing they did.”
Acting District Superintendent Cheryl Stevenson sent an email to parents, which was obtained by The Press, late on Thursday announcing the closure of the district Friday, Oct. 13. Stevenson did not return a request for comment Friday.
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In her letter Thursday, Stevenson said “the closure is unrelated to air quality or asbestos, but rather to a new issue involving the construction at the high school.” The letter announced a parents meeting Friday “to discuss the full opening of school on Monday Oct.16, 2017.”
Still, Maher, who has a daughter in the high school, said she is gravely concerned for the students’ well-being. Maher said that since school started in September, her daughter, a sophomore, has been coming home with headaches, which she says are alleviated when she is not in school.
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In a private Facebook group for Pinelands Regional parents called “LEH Elementary and Pinelands School Site!” several other parents have voiced concern over their children’s health.
Maher said she is happy that Pinelands made the decision to close the school, but is concerned with what the future holds as some parents are discussing the possibility of split sessions.
The district, which consists of a junior and senior high serving 1,700 students in grades seven through 12, was also closed Oct. 3, 4, 5 and 6 after concerns over asbestos contamination from a roofing project. Initial air quality test results confirmed levels of asbestos in the air.
More tests were performed before the “all-clear” was given by the school’s environmental consultant, TTI. Several additional tests have been completed, including one dated Oct. 10 that showed no asbestos in five samples.
Earlier this week, Stevenson said the district has taken steps to ensure the safety of the students and staff by using filter units to speed up odor removal, adjusting the construction schedule to after 3 p.m. to alleviate concerns, and providing routine air-quality testing in both the high school and the junior high school.
Concerns about air quality were initially brought up at an Oct. 2 board of education meeting.