Parents with kids at P.S. 230 are fighting to see the school rid of harmful chemicals leaking out of aging light fixtures, ahead of the 9-year time frame offered by the Department of Education.
Following the lead of other local schools like and East New York's P.S. 346, Kensington parents—along with the advocacy group New York Communities for Change—are pressing the Department of Education to hurry up in ridding the school of polychlorinated biphenyls, which have been found to cause ailments from asthma to the increased risk of childhood leukemia.
Though the PCBs have been banned since 1979, P.S. 230 is just one of 700 schools throughout the city with lights that contain the chemical. As it stands now, the DOE estimates that it will be nearly a decade before the replacement process is complete.
Unfortunately, that's about a decade longer than P.S. 230 parents want to wait.
“I think this is a priority," said Cynthia Fortozo, whose 10-year-old son Israel has class in a room said to have particularly potent amounts of the chemical.
"Why send our children to these schools when in the long run, it’s going to harm them, it’s going to cost us and it’s going to cost tax payers at the end, no matter what? The sooner it gets resolved, the better.”
PTA President Dalila Badre-Hume said she first became aware of the issue after the school's principal, Doris Cohen, sent out a letter notifying parents of the presence of PCBs in the school.
After doing some research, Badre-Hume learned that several schools had successfully fought to be made a priority by the DOE. Working with other parents, she reached out to NYCC for support. Together, they helped plan a rally held in front of the school on Wednesday morning.
She hopes the rally—along with photos taken of the ailing lights—will be enough to have the school placed on the DOE's corrective action list, which would ensure that the lights get replaced within a year.
“It’s a very simple thing. It’s not like they have to close the whole school or anything—it can be done in a few weekends," she said. "That’s what we don’t understand. I know that there are many schools, but if something is leaking, we shouldn’t have children breathing all those things."
In an article that appeared in the New York Times last March, the Environmental Protection Agency criticized the city's 10 year time frame, saying outright that the leaking lights should not be allowed to linger in schools.
Badre-Hume is inclined to agree.
“The point is, if they don’t change it, I cannot keep my children here," she said. "My oldest already has asthma. I’m not going to wait until the doctor tells me, 'Hey your child has something,' and then whats the DOE going to do?