2nd round of radon testing set for PPS

Elevated level of radon detected in 6 schools

Inside a Portland Public School, June 2, 2016 (KOIN)
Inside a Portland Public School, June 2, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Public Schools began testing for radon in March as part of a state mandate, spokesperson Christine Miles told KOIN 6 News. More testing is scheduled for next week.

The school district announced late Wednesday there is elevated radon in 6 schools.

David Hobbs, senior director of Facilities and Asset Management, sent a memo on June 1 to the Board of Education detailing the testing results.

In that memo, he wrote that PPS hired a company in March 2016 to conduct “district-wide radon testing based on the requirements of new legislation mandating testing in every school by January 2021.”

PPS spokesperson Christine Miles stands in front of water bottles piled inside Creston School in Portland after lead was found in the drinking water at 2 schools, May 31, 2016 (KOIN)
PPS spokesperson Christine Miles stands in front of water bottles piled inside Creston School in Portland after lead was found in the drinking water at 2 schools, May 31, 2016 (KOIN)

The last time PPS tested for radon was 2001, according to Hobbs’ memo.

Miles told KOIN 6 News a second round of testing is set to begin on Monday.

“We’re following the guidelines, which is making sure we’ve got air circulating in the buildings and the HVAC systems in those schools will be running to reduce the risks,” Miles said.

It’s up to individual schools to determine whether students will be allowed in rooms with elevated radon levels.

“The schools are working with their staff to do whatever they’re comfortable with,” she said.

1st graders moving

At Roseway Heights Elementary, 1st graders are getting a new classroom during their final days of the school year.

Principal Sarah Lewis said, “The fans in the building are on and will be 24 hours a day to ventilate the building and the classrooms.”

She and the staff decided moving the 1st graders was the best thing to do. “We moved their stuff into a computer lab. They’ll spend the rest of the next 5 days there.”

Roseway Heights is just one of a half-dozen schools where elevated radon levels were detected. The others are Meek, Beaumont, Whitman, Lent and Marysville.

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The district is working with health authorities to reduce the risks. “We know our buildings are old,” Miles told KOIN 6 News “We want to make sure we know what’s going on in our buildings.”

The district sent the email late last night to families “so they could be made aware of it, and we’re taking steps this morning to reduce the risks for all of our children.”

The second round test results will tell the district what needs to be done.

“Because radon comes from the ground we have to determine: Do we isolate the area? If so, how then do we reduce the levels in the schools? It’s going to be a long-term project and that will be something the district looks at this summer,” she said.

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