FLORISSANT, Mo. – Jana Elementary School is expected to close for good, several months after concerns resurfaced over radioactive contamination around the school.
The Hazelwood School District sent a letter to parents Tuesday stating that “there is no expectation that Jana Elementary will reopen.”
Environmental investigation consultants pointed out radioactive contamination at the school last year. Jana Elementary opened in 1970 and sits in the flood plain of Coldwater Creek, which was contaminated with radioactive waste generated from the production of atomic weapons in the 1940s and 50s.
Renewed worries about contamination gained national attention in October, months after historic flash flooding slammed the St. Louis region. A company called Boston Chemical Data Corp took post-flooding samples in August from Jana Elementary’s library, kitchen, classrooms, fields and playgrounds. The findings revealed that the school had much higher levels of radioactive exposure than were expected.
Jana Elementary closed down days after the report surfaced, and students have since moved to other buildings within the Hazelwood School District. The Hazelwood School District released the following statement, in part, to parents and community members on recent developments:
“The Board and administration recognize that the closure of Jana Elementary and the subsequent redistricting of students and reassignment of staff to other district schools has not been an easy transition.
However, there is no expectation that Jana Elementary will reopen, and students and staff will remain at their current schools. At the same time, we are encouraged by the resilience our Hazelwood School District community has shown throughout this season of change and uncertainty. As we look to the future, we are committed to supporting all of our students and staff in fully embracing their new school communities.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted follow-up tests at the school last fall, which indicated the school was safe and did not have radioactive exposure above normal. USACE has assisted with remediation efforts for nearly 20 years around Coldwater Creek and expects to be finished by 2038.
Missouri U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley sent a letter earlier this month to President Joe Biden demanding immediate action to clean up around the school. He also introduced legislation urging the U.S. Senate to pass legislation to clean up the school.
“I’ve introduced legislation that is very simple,” said Hawley. “We’re not trying to rewrite the U.S. code here. It’s very simple. It gets justice for these kids. It would order the federal government to clean up the school. Clean it up. If it can’t be cleaned up, build a new one.”
On Tuesday, a Corps official also requested more testing around the area, seeking permission from St. Louis County to test soil and water from nearby Fort Belle Fontaine Park. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016 urged people to stay away from Coldwater Creek.