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DeKalb faults AJC story questioning school site, but will its rebuttal reassure parents?

The DeKalb County School District objected to an AJC story that expressed concerns over plans to build the new Smoke Rise Elementary School down the road from a hazardous materials manufacturer.

So, the district created a “Setting the Record Straight” page today where it explained:

DCSD will not place a school in a location that will be harmful to students. Prior to the purchase of the property, the district conducted an extensive environmental review of the site via a third-party professional engineering firm, Matrix Engineering Group, Inc.

The engineer’s finding, based on the firm’s Risk Hazard Analysis and Evaluation, was that the site is suitable for the proposed Smoke Rise Elementary School provided that the mitigation measures listed below be implemented.

The district is attempting to allay what it deems unwarranted fears prompted by the AJC story, but I wonder if the effort could backfire. I thought about these "mitigation measures" in the context of buying a lot to build a house and discovering it's near a hazardous materials manufacturer. The builder reassures you the house will be safe as long as you do these nine things.

Here is the list from DeKalb’s site.

-Minimize the use of large glass windows (max. 6 foot and 8-foot-high) for a portion of the facility.

-Utilize shatterproof glass windows for the building’s southern elevations.

-All exterior walls should be of steel reinforced masonry construction with brick veneer.

-Locate the buildings as far away from Hugh Howell Road as possible.

-Create a barrier along the southern boundary of the property such as an architectural wall. The wall should be a reinforced masonry or concrete wall with a minimum height of four (4) feet.

-Design of air handling and ventilation systems should incorporate engineering controls to prevent intrusion of hazardous airborne contaminant. {Question from me: What about hazardous airborne contaminants when the kids play outside?}

-Prepare an emergency preparedness plan to address the potential hazards.

-Prepare an evacuation plan consistent with the type of hazards identified to provide for efficient and timely evacuation of the buildings in case of an emergency.

-A fence is recommended on all sides of the property.

After seeing this list, would you tell your builder, “Let’s go”? Or, “Let’s go somewhere else”?

Would you be comfortable sending a child to a school on this site?


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.