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Letter from Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles to Councilmembers and State Board of Education on Lead in Schools

Monday, May 23, 2016

May 18, 2016

Dear Councilmembers and State Board of Education Members,

I am writing to provide an update on the Administration’s actions related to incidents involved elevated levels of lead in the water supply at DC Public Schools.  At the direction of Mayor Bowser, the Department of General Services (DGS) has been on a testing blitz and will have tested every drinkable water source at schools and recreation centers by June 17th.

Results from schools that have been tested are available on the Department of General Services’ website.  Updated information on lead and Public Charter Schools can be found here.

I have spoken personally with some of you about this situation and want to reiterate that we do not have a health emergency related to lead in the District. Based on what I have heard from parents and the government agencies involved, this situation was caused by a breakdown in communication and reporting errors which has caused a crisis of confidence. Below you will find a summary of the actions we’ve taken to restore that confidence and communicate with parents and residents in a timely manner.    

What to Know

Snapshot of Water Testing Results

  • As of today, over 12,000 water samples have been collected at 109 out of 116 DC Public Schools.
  • Of the 57 schools for which we have results, DGS found actionable levels of lead (15 parts per billion)  in possible drinkable water sources in 29 schools and actionable levels on non-drinking water sources (utility taps/valves/slop sinks in mechanical spaces) sources at 21 schools. 
  • Each of the possible drinking sources with actionable results have been shut off, will be remediated, and retested before being turned on again.

Water Testing Process

  • DGS is testing every drinkable water source at DCPS buildings and DPR recreation centers by June 17, 2016.
  • Drinkable water sources found to have an actionable level of lead are remediated and retested immediately. Not until the retest shows that the source does not have actionable levels is the source available for use.
  • DGS sends the results to DCPS, DOEE, and DME upon receipt.
  • DCPS sends out a letter summarizing the results to each school community – if a follow up letter is needed on retesting, they are sent that as well.
  • After the school community is notified by DCPS, DGS posts school level results from the previous week on Tuesday.
  • DGS is now using barcoding and tagging system – so that every drinkable water source is tagged and indicates any actions taken related to lead.

Snapshot of Blood Screening Results

  • As of 5/16/2016, 314 students have had blood screenings at 4 schools.
  • Of those screened, no students had actionable lead levels attributable to water at schools.

Blood Screening Process

  •  The Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE), in conjunction with a contractor and DCPS, will offer blood testing on-site to the 14 schools that previously had actionable results and were not notified in a timely fashion. DCPS is confirming that Principals are consulting PTO leaders so parents have input in asking for optional testing.
  • DOEE will also be offering four citywide blood testing opportunities for families. (See Upcoming Dates below.)

Communications

  •  In addition to sending letters to the school community summarizing the results, DCPS has offered to have meetings at the 14 schools that previously had actionable results, but were not notified in a timely fashion.
  • School community meetings
    • To date, the following meetings have taken place:
      • Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan ES
      • J.O. Wilson ES
      • Payne ES
    • A meeting with the Miner community is scheduled for May 25, 2016.
      • DME will attend the SBOE meeting tonight (5/18/16) to provide an update on water and blood testing.
      • DCPS and DOEE will advertise the city-wide blood screenings.  (See below.)

Public Charter School Summary

  • The Public Charter School Board began testing schools last month.
  • As of May 6, test results have been received for 71 out of the 114 charter schools.
    • Water sources were shut off and the nine sources are being retested.

Upcoming Dates

  1. State Board of Education monthly meeting will be held on May 18, 2016 at 5:30pm at 441 4th Street, NW, Old Council Chambers, Washington, D.C. 20001 when I will provide an update on the Administration’s actions.
  2.  Miner ES parent meeting will be held on May 25, 2016 at 6:00pm at Miner (601 15th St NE).
  3. DOEE is hosting city-wide blood screenings across the city on the following dates:
  • Saturday, May 21, 9am – 1pm, UDC East Capitol Urban Farm (across from Capitol Heights Metro station).
  • Saturday, June 4, Time: TBD, DC Truck Touch (RFK Stadium, Lot 7)
  • Saturday, June 11, 10am- 4pm, Michigan Park (Bunker Hill Road NE)
  • Saturday, June 25, Time: 11am-3pm, Raymond Rec Center

         4. Joint Oversight Hearing on Lead Testing in Public Facilities will be held June 22, 2016 at 10:00am in Room 500 at the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW).

If you have further questions, please let Shayne Wells ([email protected] or 202-215-8384) or me know. 

Best,

Jennie