Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Heberle parents demand information

School board unsure where kids will go this fall

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

About 60 parents and students from a lead-paint-contaminated school turned out at a Cincinnati school board meeting Monday to chastise officials for not informing them where their children will be attending school in less than two months.

In April, more than 500 students were forced to move from Heberle Elementary to the vacant Porter Elementary after lead paint hazards were found at Heberle, a West End school.

"The lack of communication between Cincinnati Public Schools and Heberle parents has forced us to rely on hearsay as to the future of our children," said parent Carlean Chalk, a West End resident. "This must not continue."

Schools officials determined the cost to clean and treat Heberle could reach $1.5 million.

The school was slated to close permanently around 2009 as part of the district's $1 billion reconstruction project, but district officials considered closing the school sooner rather than pay to clear Heberle of lead paint hazards.

Parents say they are hearing rumors that their children will be moved to schools throughout Cincinnati, but they have heard nothing concrete from the district.

Alicia Benton-Clark, another Heberle parent, said parents have heard little from the board or the superintendent.

"I'm here to tell the board they need more parental involvement," she said. "Every decision they're making is under the table."

Superintendent Alton Frailey addressed the group during the board meeting, telling them the district is meeting with health department officials next week to determine what would be required to treat Heberle.

"I do understand the parents' concern and frustration," he said. "But to say that we have not been talking with parents is incorrect."

He added that his staff and health officials have met with parents several times.

Frailey said school officials don't know where the students will be relocated for the beginning of the school year. He did debunk a rumor that students will attend school in the basement of Woodward High School.

"Our desire is to get the students back to Heberle, if at all possible," he said.

In addition to Heberle, 22 Cincinnati school buildings are being treated for possible lead paint hazards.

Work on the estimated $5.5 million project is expected to be complete before schools reopen Aug. 21.


E-mail jmrozowski@enquirer.com

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