What to Know
- A Long Island middle school relocated its students Thursday due to environment health concerns
- Students at Northport Middle School were moved to four other schools in the area just as the state health department expanded its cancer investigation to the entire district
- The investigation started in March 2019 when it was reported that some of the students of the 2016 Northport High School class were diagnosed with cancer
As students at a Long Island middle school relocate their classes to nearby schools over health concerns, the New York State Health Department says it has expanded its cancer investigation to the entire school district.
Children at Northport Middle School were taught at other schools on Thursday as officials did further testing of the school's soil, vapor, indoor air quality, sanitary system and storm water after elevated levels of benzene (a potentially dangerous chemical) were found in soil samples from two different septic systems on the southern and eastern sides of the school, according to school district superintendent Robert Banzer.
Eighth grade students were relocated to Northport High School, seventh grade students transitioned to East Northport Middle School, and sixth graders relocated to either Norwood Avenue Elementary or Bellerose Avenue Elementary School.
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On Thursday night, parents packed an auditorium in order to speak directly to school district administrators, saying their children were struggling with the change in scenery that will be in effect for the rest of the year.
"We have been on a roller coaster of emotions, shock and sadness about the loss of our school," one parent said.
"What I don’t understand is why 660 children were uprooted before a full retort was completed," one parent said to applause.
While some were upset with the move, questioning why a transition was done before a full report could be completed, others applauded the move.
"I think it’s much more important for the kids health and safety, and we can deal with social [and] emotional, that’s something we can work with," one parent said.
The meeting came after preliminary air quality testing from inside the school did not pick up on harmful volatile organic compounds.
Banzer said in letter to parents that preliminary air testing "indicated no observable detection" of volatile organic compounds.
"However, in the best interest of our students and staff and in consideration of ongoing testing and remediation, the building will be closed for the balance of the school year," the superintendent said.
State health officials said Wednesday that following a report of cases of cancer occurring among the 2016 Northport High School class, the health department will now take a look at the rate of cancer among children and adults in the entire school district.
"The investigation will include all types of cancer among all ages, with a focus on young people and young adults," said department spokesperson Erin Silk. "It will review whether there are cancer elevations among residents of the school district as a whole, certain geographic areas within the school district, in specific timeframes, or within specific age groups."
Silk said the investigation started in March 2019 when it was reported that some of the students were diagnosed with primarily leukemia.
It is unclear how many students from the Northport High School class had cancer, but Silk said the number was fewer than six. The Department of Health also said that its current investigation is independent from the environment concerns related to the school's decision to close the campus.
For years, residents in the area reported health issues ranging from unexplained rashes to asthma.
Patch reported last week that parents of the middle school staged a "sick out" rally after the school district disclosed high levels of mercury were found on school grounds.