Board authorizes bids, agrees to review spraying procedures

Board authorizes bids, agrees to review spraying procedures by M. Jill Sundstrom The Vermillion School Board authorized bids for the Vermillion High School building project during its regular meeting Nov. 8.

The bids will be opened Dec. 16 at 2 p.m. in the administration building. The meeting is open to the public.

�The school board will then meet on the Monday or Tuesday of the following week after the architects have checked the bids to make sure all the specifications are met,� said Superintendent Robert Mayer. �Then the board will award the bids so things can get rolling.�

The school board also agreed to review its lawn care program after a Vermillion resident, April Gabowy, presented concerns about the use of 2,4-D herbicide on school property.

�A lot of people don�t know that 2,4-D is harmful to human beings,� Gabowy said. �I just wanted to meet with you to make you aware of what 2,4-D does.�

Gabowy, quoting from The Journal of Pesticide Reform and a toxicology profile of 2,4-D, told the school board that 2,4-D is one-half of the component of Agent Orange, the defoliant used extensively in Vietnam.

�It�s also a mutagen � it disrupts cells and as such is a possible carcinogen,� she said. �Low dose exposure has shown that it impairs the immune system function and it has adverse affects on the nervous system.�

Gabowy noted the illnesses her family suffered after her neighbor used 2,4-D on his lawn and �forgot to dilute it,� she said. �My entire family was subjected to this strong chemical smell for the entire summer of 1998. We were sick. My son lost 50 percent of his school days. And for two years before that, he had perfect attendance. I just wonder what a constant low-dose exposure to 2,4-D is doing to the people of Vermillion.�

She added that her doctor told her that 2,4-D was �quite likely� the cause of her family�s illnesses.

After smelling herbicide on the Austin School grounds this summer (on Aug. 30), Gabowy called the Department of Agriculture.

�They took soil samples and verified that 2,4-D had been used,� she said. �To me, the grass looked chemically damaged.�

Gabowy then took pictures of the damaged grass in the school yard �after a heavy rain,� she said. �I also took a ?control� picture of my lawn. We never use chemicals or water it. You can see the difference.�

School board member Nick Merrigan noted, however, that Vermillion hasn�t received any significant rainfall since July 21 and the grass damage could have occurred due to drought.

�But it did rain on Aug. 29,� Gabowy said.

�I believe if the city of Vermillion doesn�t pass a law soon to ban the use of 2,4-D, the federal government should,� she added.

�I�m a licensed commercial applicator and have been for some time,� said school board member James Kinney. �These herbicides have to be licensed and there is not enough data to ban 2,4-D.�

�I�m concerned because 2,4-D has been shown to affect the central nervous system,� Gabowy said. �That�s not conducive to children learning. I don�t think it would hurt to find � I hate to say it � a different spray, or another means to control weeds on school grounds.�

�When I called the Department of Agriculture after they took samples of our school yard, the investigator told me that the dryness is due to no moisture,� Mayer said. �And I was told the manner in which we use the spray � by a licensed applicator whose dilution was tested � that it is sprayed as safely as can be done when using 2,4-D.�

Mayer, however, suggested that the school board review its lawn care policy.

�We need to evaluate the whole program,� he said.

The board agreed.

�You�ve presented us with valuable information and recommendations and we will review the procedures we use,� Tom Craig, school board president, told Gabowy. �Your concerns will be a part of this whole process.�

A request to pay a school staff member $10 per hour as a Saturday School tutor at Vermillion Middle School was also approved by the school board. Paul VonFischer, assistant principal at VMS, explained the concept of Saturday School to the board members.

The program is intended for students who skip detention on a regular basis or continually misbehave and interfere with classroom activities. Saturday School is also for students who do not seem to change their behaviors, including tardiness, disrespect or failure to follow school rules and regulations, in spite of in-school or out-of-school suspensions.

VonFischer pointed out that he and Principal Pat Anderson have had concerns expressed by parents that in-school and out-of-school suspensions are ineffective because parents are not home to supervise their children while they are on suspension and that students are hurt academically if they miss class time due to suspensions.

�Saturday School is a disciplinary consequence,� VonFischer said. �It�s a time for students to work on school work under supervision to make sure they are doing academic activities. It provides the academic experience that students do not get when detention or suspension is used for discipline.�

Saturday School has been in place for VMS students for a couple of years, but the students have been sent to VHS where a similar program is in place. That, however, has become a problem, VonFischer said. Middle school age-appropriate study materials aren�t available, the teachers and students are unfamiliar with each other, the environment is different for students and supervision is sometimes difficult when older and younger students are together.

Craig asked VHS Principal Doug Tuetken if the program was productive at the high school.

�For some students it has been effective,� Tuetken said. �There are others we will never reach. But we keep trying.�

�The program has merit,� Craig said just prior to board approval of the request for VMS Saturday School tutor pay. �It won�t cost that much to implement it for the rest of the year.�

The position of Saturday School tutor will be filled by a VMS staff person.

According to rules devised by VMS staff, Saturday School is held every other Saturday from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Students must report in with enough school work or reading material to occupy themselves for the assigned time period. No food, beverages, radios, music or hats are allowed. Students who are tardy (more than 15 minutes late) or who do not attend their assigned Saturday School date are subject to suspension. If a student is late but arrives prior to 8:45 a.m., he or she must serve one-half hour additional time. Students who are asked to leave for disciplinary reasons will also be subject to an immediate one day out-of-school suspension.

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