clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Sick Riverton school closed indefinitely

Until further notice, Riverton Elementary School is closed.

Beginning Tuesday, affected students will attend three nearby schools until school and environment officials can determine why students and staff are occasionally sickened in the building.In an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon, the Jordan School District Board of Education voted unanimously to temporarily close the school and move kindergartners to Bluffdale Elementary School; grades 1-3 to West Hills Middle School and grades 4-6 to Mount Jordan Middle School.

"We feel it is the most responsible plan to ensure the safety and educational continuity for the students and staff of Riverton Elementary," said Superintendent Barry Newbold.

Riverton students will have no classes until March 3, when school resumes in the temporary quarters. Busing will be provided for all students. School hours will be 9:10 a.m. to 4:05 p.m. for children attending first through sixth grades.

The morning session of kindergarten will be conducted from 9:10 a.m. to 12:02 p.m. The afternoon session will run from 1:13 p.m. to 4:05 p.m. A portable classroom will be moved to Bluffdale to accommodate the kindergarten classes.

Later start times are necessary to accommodate bus schedules, district officials said. The customary teacher planning schedule has not yet been determined.

Meanwhile, representatives of the school district, state and federal environmental agencies and private contractors will continue to test and clean the Riverton building.

After a stormy meeting Wednesday night, parents who attended Thursday's meeting were pleased with the school district's response, although it means some siblings will attend different schools.

"It brings a lot of peace of mind to knowing the district is taking a very bold stance in resolving this," said parent Eric Johnson.

Tuesday, 18 students were taken to the hospital complaining of nausea, respiratory difficulties, rashes and other physical problems. The remainder of the students were evacuated from the building.

Wednesday, the school was closed so more tests could be conducted. Tests revealed nothing.

The district then decided to reopen the school Thursday but seal off the sixth-grade wing, the area most often affected by what teachers and students describe as peculiar smells that precede illness. Only 54 percent of the school's 772 students attended class on Thursday.

Although Riverton Elementary School is only three years old, the district has spent thousands of dollars since 1995 investigating the source of odors said to sicken occupants.

According to a document released Thursday, the district, along with 17 government agencies and private businesses, has reviewed ventilation systems, sewage systems, kitchen waste-water disposal methods and the operation of grease interceptors.

"We've put thousands of dollars into this. All of them (the tests) have said, `You have a clean, safe school,' " said school board president Jane Callister.

Until the district can resolve the problem, students will attend school elsewhere.

"It's very logical for parents to be upset. The district, judging by that list, is really trying to find an answer," she said, referring to a document that lists 29 work details aimed at trying to detect problems.

Callister said the district had not experienced similar problems at any of its other schools, including Bluffdale Elementary School, which was built at the same time as Riverton, using an identical building plan.

"We're just at a loss," she said.

The temporary relocation of students and environmental work at the school likely will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, said district business administrator C. Devon Sanderson.