Florissant mayor, Jana Elementary grad reacts to school remaining closed

Mayor Timothy Lowery attended Jana in the 1970s, the school closed after radiation was found in 2022
Published: Mar. 25, 2023 at 5:38 AM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - The future of an elementary school in North St. Louis County remains uncertain after the school district decided to keep it closed following conflicting contamination test results.

Tuesday, the Hazelwood School District announced Jana Elementary will remain closed after the district decided to close the school temporarily in fall 2022.

A report from a consulting firm in October showed radioactive waste contamination at Jana Elementary. The school sits close to Coldwater Creek. From 1942 until 1957, uranium used for atomic bombs was processed in downtown St. Louis. In 1957, the production of uranian was moved to a facility in Weldon Springs in St. Charles County. This facility operated until 1966. Some of the waste from processing uranian was dumped near Lambert St. Louis International Airport. There, wind and rain swept contaminants into Coldwater Creek, which runs from Lambert Airport through many towns in North St. Louis County, until it meets with the Missouri River.

After the report came out, students at Jana Elementary went to school virtually before they were transferred to different schools in the Hazelwood District. Testing by the Army Corps of Engineers showed no presence of radioactive material above the expected range of background levels. Many parents are skeptical of that result.

“Myself. Our community. We just need to know we need to know,” Florissant mayor Timothy Lowery told News 4.

Mayor Lowery lived in the Jana Elementary neighborhood and attended the school in the 1970s.

“Well, it’s, actually, pretty disheartening to think that the school that I attended, and certainly the neighborhood I grew up with, still has these issues with Coldwater Creek. I’ve had many meetings with the Army Corp of Engineers and they promised me that the levels are not to the point where we need to be concerned about. It would be great to have another school, but I think we got to be--concern is there’s a reason they’re closing the school. So, I don’t know. I wouldn’t want one there unless I know for sure that the area is safe.”

“From a radiological standpoint, the school is safe,” said Col. Kevin Golinghorst, St. Louis District commander, in November. “We owe it to the public and the parents and children of Jana Elementary School to make informed decisions focused on the safety of the community, and we will continue to take effective actions using accurate data.”

“Even though the school is closed now, that doesn’t say what happens to the school in the future,” Jana Elementary Parent Teacher Association president Ashley Bernaugh told News 4. “There’s nothing in this letter that says the school would be torn down or never reopened.”

US Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill in Congress to help clean up Jana Elementary and other schools dealing with radioactive waste. Congresswoman Cori Bush has also demanded a clean-up of the area.

State representatives Tricia Byrnes and Richard West, both Wentzville Republicans, are sponsoring legislation to have the state investigate whether those impacted by radioactive waste could receive financial compensation from the federal government.