Severe Thunderstorm Watch issued for Lawrence County until 11 p.m.

After sample testing, 2 Franklin elementary schools implement e-learning day Thursday

FRANKLIN, Ind. — Students will stay home from two Franklin schools Thursday after the district received preliminary results from environmental testing.

Students at Needham and Webb Elementary schools will instead have e-learning days, before spring break starts Friday.

Franklin Community Schools requested a second round of sampling by Enviroforensics this winter, following up on testing done over the summer, as recommended by the company. The vapor samples were taken from below the concrete floor of the schools.

The district said 3 out of 7 samples at Webb Elementary and 2 out of 10 samples at Needham Elementary were above the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s screening levels.

“Student and staff safety is our number one priority. Out of an abundance of caution, FCS will be implementing an E-Learning Day tomorrow, March 21 for Needham and Webb Elementary,” the district wrote in a statement.

The summer testing was done after the community group, If It Was Your Child, and environmental group, Edison Wetlands Association, coordinated sampling at homes throughout Franklin for volatile organic compounds. The groups have been raising concerns about contamination in Franklin and the number of pediatric cancer cases there.

“It’s very nerve wracking to be a parent here in Franklin right now, especially when we’ve been through cancer with a child so I’m both nervous but glad that this testing has happened and that hopefully something will be done about it,” Belinda Velasquez, a parent in Franklin, said.

She has a current third-grade student and another daughter, Athena, who she said previously went to Needham Elementary before later receiving a leukemia diagnosis. She finished her treatment last year. She said parents are not trying to create panic.

“We just want something done we just want it cleaned up so no other child has to go through cancer,” she said. 

Right now, the U.S. EPA is overseeing a cleanup at the former Amphenol site in Franklin and an investigation into contamination in a neighborhood south of the site.

“The city’s top priority is the safety of our citizens. We are in support of the actions taken by our school system and encourage additional testing. They should have more answers next week,” Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett said in a statement.

Next week, Enviroforensics is expected to sample the indoor air.

The school district said it anticipates another announcement next Thursday and will post the final results from sampling when they are in.

In a statement released Thursday, the City of Franklin said Enviroforensics will also conduct a focused study of vapors in the sewer backfill and sewer pipe in the city right-of-way west of Eastview Drive and in the vicinity of the schools.

“The study will evaluate whether gases and vapors present in the sewer manholes and sewer bedding material exhibit elevated levels of volatile organic compounds,” wrote the City.

The City says Enviroforensics anticipates completing the sampling next week and results will be released when they are available.

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