The FAQ recently released by Richmond Public Schools, regarding the relocation of 250 preschool students from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School to A.V Norrell Elementary School, blatantly lies about the content of a 2007 FEMA report, and the availability of alternative locations.
In arguing the safety of A.V Norrell, which was built on an improperly capped landfill, the FAQ cites a Federal Emergency Management Agency report released in 2007, regarding conditions on the site in 2006 after a sewage pipeline burst. The Richmond Public Schools FAQ states:
“… a FEMA report dated March 2007 referred to additional testing by Richmond City’s consultants, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Department that deemed the landfill and school safe. The results of the investigation revealed that “the landfill did not pose health, safety and environmental threats…””
While the phrase “the landfill did not pose health, safety, and environmental threats” is an actual quote from the report, it refers to an investigation performed in 1993, which is cited in the report to give context to the 2006 findings, which state:
“Based on the results of the borings performed in the area of the proposed work, it appears the presence of landfill gas is at levels approaching the lower explosive limit (LEL), which is 5 percent methane by volume, and was as high as 24 percent methane by volume—nearing the upper explosive limit (UEL). Although there has been a gas extraction and collection system in place since 1977, it is unclear if that system is still operational today.”
What’s more, the report explicitly states that “landfill gas is still an issue of concern for the Fells Street Landfill.”
Essentially, the School Board pulled a quote referring to a 1993 investigation, and claimed that it instead referred to a 2006 investigation. This can’t be a mistake, because while the 1993 investigation concluded that the grounds were safe, as quoted by RPS, the 2006 testings- the ones the report was compiled to discuss- revealed methane gas in concentrations as high as the “upper explosive limit”. RPS thus used twenty-one year old results to obscure tests performed only six years ago.
In addition, the FAQ ridiculously claims that John B. Cary Elementary “would not be able to comfortably accommodate the 250 to 260 students.” However, a report from May of this year quotes Cary as serving 300 enrolled students in a building built for 1,000. This detail, too, seems to be a lie, if conditions have not rapidly changed in the past four months.
Whether or not A.V Norrell Elementary is safe remains to be seen, but the 2006 FEMA report makes clear the conditions in 2006, and those conditions were dangerous. It should raise serious suspicions that the School Board has resorted to lying to the community about the safety of preschoolers and the availability of alternatives, especially compounded with the fact that, while ostensibly released, the current tests results are nowhere to be found on the RPS website.
“MLK Preschool Relocation FAQ”. Richmond Public Schools. < http://web.richmond.k12.va.us/Programs/RegionalPreschoolLearningCenters/mlkatnorrell.aspx >
Reid, Zachary. “Richmond Debates Merits of Smaller Elementary Schools.” May 2012. Richmond Times-Dispatch. < http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/local-education/2012/may/21/tdmain01-richmond-officials-debate-merits-of-keepi-ar-1929580/ >
“FEMA Battery Park Report”. Federal Emergency Management Association. 2007. The report is available online, but is difficult to link. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the complete PDF file.