Was school moved from one toxic site to another?

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The Bronx New School, PS 51 moved out of its toxic building in time for the new school year, but parents say its new space is also riddled with problems, the most disconcerting of which is the presence of yet another toxic chemical that would be illegally high in other states. 

Formerly located at 3200 Jerome Ave., PS 51 moved more than two miles away, to East 182nd Street and Crotona Avenue, after officials found levels of the industrial solvent trichloroethylene that exceeded state guidelines by up to 10 times. 

At a press conference and meeting at the Bronx High School of Business on Oct. 12, parents complained that not only does the new building also house chemicals, it has a leaky roof, old windows (one of which recently blew out in a storm), only two phones, no Internet access and wiring so poor SMART Boards and computers cannot be put in classrooms, issues that the DOE says it will address.

“I’m disgusted, I’m fed up and I’m frustrated,” former parent Nicole Forbes shouted during the press conference. 

Parents spoke about the issues at a Panel for Educational Policy meeting that was unrelated to PS 51 and was held so Department of Education officials could vote on a number of changes to city schools. All PEP meetings have public comment periods attended by high-ranking officials, including Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and parents used the allocated time to make their voices heard. 

Air tests conducted on Aug. 4, 5 and 8 at PS 51’s new location revealed that the building contains 1.2 milligrams per cubic meter of tetrachloroethylene. Also known as PCE or perchloroethylene, the potentially carcinogenic chemical is used by dry cleaners and has been linked to headaches, memory impairment, mood changes, dizziness, nausea, unconsciousness, kidney dysfunction and eye, nose, mouth and throat irritation. 

While the levels found at PS 51 are below New York State guidelines of 100 milligrams per cubic meter, they are far above California’s limit of .41 milligrams per cubic meter. 

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