Rensselaer City School Community Members,
The recent increase in media coverage on our proximity to the landfill has stirred some good questions from students, parents, and community members. We would like to take this opportunity to update everyone on actions that the school has taken concerning this topic. We also invite the community to come to the information night hosted by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the NYS Department of Health in our cafeteria on Thursday (2/27) night from 5:30 to 7:30pm. This should be an opportunity to get some important questions and concerns clarified.
After clarifying some misconceptions about the school’s role this summer, the district worked with Mayor Mooney, the Common Council, and Rensselaer County Legislator Chairman, Michael Stammel, to request that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation work with other government agencies including the NYS Department of Health to increase testing, ensuring that our students, staff, and community members are safe. This resulted in success with baseline and ongoing testing beyond the particulate and hydrogen sulfide monitoring that began in the summer of 2019. The DEC also installed permanent monitoring equipment on the school roof. We also requested advocacy on our part from Senator Breslin and Assemblymember McDonald in that letter. They advocated on the community’s behalf and the DEC responded.
This past October, when our students were subject to odors inside the building, our Board of Education and bargaining units requested further help from the Department of Health in providing interior air quality monitors. We all agree that smelling hydrogen sulfide in the school is unacceptable. It does not allow for a productive or pleasant learning environment, and may potentially have adverse health effects depending on the intensity and duration of exposure – which is impossible to quantify without devices. It is important that our students and staff not have to experience that in our school. It is also critical that we know that our health is not in danger. Unfortunately, our request was denied.
As a school district, we have worked to improve our own data collection and document each instance when we have a reported odor. We collect and corroborate observations to be able to describe when and where odors are observed as a matter of record as to how our building is affected. We also report each instance to the DEC through the official hotline, which often results in the presence of a DEC official on site for further investigation.
In my role as superintendent, I have attended several Rensselaer Environmental Coalition meetings and I am willing to work with any community groups to find answers to this situation. We are in this together.
This entire situation begs many questions. Our community has an opportunity to answer some of those at the upcoming information night. The school is happy to host this event as we seek many of those same answers. We hope to see many concerned community members involved.
Superintendent, Rensselaer City School District