May 17, 2001
Simona Vaclavikova, Central Ohio Program Director
Ohio Citizen Action
[The following column was originally scheduled to run in the Marion Star. The newspaper then refused to publish the piece, saying it was "too confusing for the community." What do you think?]
Thereís a realistic and practical way to put an end promptly to the controversy over the chemical contamination at River Valley Schools.
Already, $24 million in federal and state money and another $19.6 in local funds have been set aside for relocating students to new buildings when they are completed in 2003 or later. So far so good.
The last piece of the puzzle is finding a safe place for students until then. Once this happens, the controversy in Marion will be over, and the community can turn its attention to the future. Until it happens, each new discovery of contamination at the current site will be the occasion for more wrangling. No one wants this.
Fortunately, there is a solution.
Many Ohio school systems, including River Valley, already use modular classrooms to solve space problems. Modular units fit the classroom standards of the Ohio Department of Education and have been approved for school use. They can economically and flexibly house River Valley Middle and High Schoolís 800 students in fourteen units.
It takes only two to three months to assemble and deliver these units to the site. In an emergency, it can be done it three to four weeks.
Multiple classrooms with a centered hallway can be simply added to one another with built-up bathrooms as well as dining areas.
Tri-Rivers Joint Vocational School, a few miles from the present River Valley Schools site, is willing to provide 30 acres of free space behind their complex for temporary relocation of students. Tri-Rivers owns two softball fields that have already been used by other schools. Other space for athletics can be found by working around the schedules of other area schools.
The cost for this solution is about $1 million, less than 3% of the money already committed to permanent relocation. There may be other sources for this money as well.
The details are important, and we all, including Ohio Citizen Action, look to the school district for leadership in working them out with the parents, administrators and teachers.
Everyone involved wants the same thing: to give Marion parents a chance to send their kids to school this coming September without doubts or fears for their health. Letís solve this now.