Cardozo Senior High School in Northwest Washington is scheduled to reopen tomorrow after a series of mercury cleanups and a walk-through inspection yesterday by parents, teachers and students, officials said.
This is the second time the school has been cleared to reopen. Two weeks ago, the D.C. Health Department declared the school safe, based on tests by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But after more mercury droplets were discovered in the school's basement, the school was kept closed.
That was the third discovery of mercury in 11 days, following the March 2 discovery of mercury contamination in a stairwell and two ounces of mercury spilled on the ground and first floors of the school Feb. 23. The stairwell contamination directly affected 88 students or staff. Two students have been charged with illegally dumping hazardous materials in connection with the Feb. 23 incident.
In addition to mercury, other chemicals were discovered in science labs, despite a systemwide effort to rid all schools of such material. That effort followed a mercury incident that closed Ballou Senior High School in Southeast Washington for a lengthy period in 2003.
This time, officials said, they believe that, after three separate EPA cleanups, a thorough job has been done.
Yesterday's tour and inspection of Cardozo's 400,000-square-foot building included two Board of Education officials, two D.C. Council members, the school district's chief business officer and School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey's chief of staff, Peter Parhan.
"We did an actual walk-through inspection," D.C. schools spokeswoman Roxanne Evans said. "Particularly, we wanted to show the areas where there has been mercury and explain a little bit about the cleanup. We also pointed out a laboratory and a lab storage area where some other chemicals were found and were removed."
A contractor and school cleaning crews were to continue regular cleaning work, such as floor polishing, over the weekend, Evans said. "A lot of the parents said they felt comfortable with the cleanup that had been done thus far."
Cardozo's 830 students have been attending classes at the University of the District of Columbia since March 8. The Columbia Heights school also was closed from Feb. 23 to 28 after the initial discovery of mercury. Officials haven't decided how students will make up the 27 hours of instruction they lost.
Cardozo Principal Reginald Ballard has "a pretty elaborate calling system," in addition to e-mail and Web site alerts that he was to use this weekend to inform students and parents about tomorrow's reopening, Evans said. Announcements also were scheduled for a Cardozo scholarship ball last night.