Elevated soil gas levels lead to temporary closure of Lyndhurst’s Washington School

Washington School, Lyndhurst, remained closed through at least Monday, Sept. 17, while environmental officials continued to test for elevated soil gas levels, Superintendent of Schools Anthony Grieco said. And while testing continues, students were relocated to the former St. Michael’s Grammar School.

On Wednesday, Sept. 12, Grieco said a letter to parents to inform them of the environmental issue.

The testing, he said, came as continued renovations were to take place at the Ridge Road School.

“As part of the planned school improvements to Washington School, the Board of Education commenced a series of soil tests prior to the start of construction,” Grieco wrote in the letter to parents and guardians. “The purpose of these tests was to analyze subterranean soil and air quality from below the building.

“These recent tests took place on Aug. 21 … The test results were received and reviewed by school personnel on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. The results of the tests reflected elevated soil gas screening levels.”

According to Grieco, there were elevated levels, specifically, of benzene, chloroform, ethylbenzene and trichloroethene.

Additional tests to the school basement and first floor were to have taken place last week.

Grieco said the NJ Department of Environmental Protection was also contacted to “notify them of the concerns raised in the initial tests.”

An environmental consultant told the superintendent the discharge levels came from “an unknown, off-site source,” though the specific point or origin was not immediately known.

As to the tests, Grieco said, “Typically, test results of this nature take two weeks to complete.”

He said expedited results are likely to be available on Wednesday, Sept. 19 for the school’s basement and Monday, Sept. 24, for the first-floor.

The results prompted Grieco to close Washington School on Sept. 13 and Sept. 14. No other schools were closed.

“It is important to note the district has not received an order from any agency to close the school due to the levels that have been detected up to this point,” Grieco noted.

Classes were to begin Monday, Sept. 17, at the former St. Michael’s School. It was not immediately clear, as of The Observer’s presstime, how long students would be at the relocated school.

Meanwhile, Christina Bernardo, the school’s principal, notified parents and guardians of Washington School students of the relocation to the former Catholic grammar school in a letter.

“We are excited to have secured this ideal, safe, educational environment for our students,” Bernardo said. “Thank you for your cooperation and patience regarding the above procedures and during this frustrating time. We are looking forward to greeting our students Monday morning. If you should have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us on our off-site number, 201-531‐2717.”

Parents were advised to drop students off in the St. Michael’s parking lot off of Page Avenue. School employees were to have been on-scene to escort children into the building. Parents who wish to see their children escorted into the building were asked to park their vehicles legally, off campus, and then to bring their children to the lot for a safe escort.

Staff members spent part of last week moving materials from Washington School to St. Michael’s. The temporary school is about 4/10 of a mile away from Washington School. St. Michael’s School closed in June 2003, according to the parish’s website.

Learn more about the writer ...

Editor & Broadcaster at 

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.