In their first communication to parents since revealing last week that nearly 900 city classrooms have peeling lead paint, education officials said they are working to quickly address the problem, but stopped short of giving direct advice about whether students should receive blood lead testing.
“We are sparing no effort to ensure that wherever there may be potential exposure, it is immediately remediated,” officials wrote in an unsigned and undated letter released to Chalkbeat on Monday.
The education department acknowledged Wednesday that nearly 1,000 city classrooms in schools built before 1985 that serve students in pre-K and kindergarten have deteriorating lead paint that could potentially harm children, particularly those under 6. Department officials have said they will address any instances of crumbling lead paint in those classrooms before the school year starts in September.
The letter suggests that families should discuss their “child’s health history with their doctor to determine if blood lead testing is appropriate” and directs parents to call 311 to find free testing or a doctor. It also notes that lead poisoning rates among city children have been falling in recent years.
Officials said the letter was sent Friday to principals in affected buildings. They were instructed to forward it to parents of children under 6 years old who were in any of those classrooms last year, or who are attending summer programs. (Officials added that young students attending summer programs were moved out of affected classrooms in the opening days of summer school.)
Still, multiple parents at affected schools said they had not received the letter. Christine Fortis-Raman, whose daughter was in a room with peeling lead paint at Brooklyn’s P.S. 9 last school year, said she hadn’t heard from department officials.
“It doesn’t surprise me — and it’s unfortunate,” she said, adding that she plans to have her daughter tested just to be safe.
The letter is unlikely to assuage some parents’ concerns that the city has been slow to communicate a full account of the risks of lead exposure and the department’s plan to address the issue. The lead paint results were released in the wake of a WNYC investigation that found dangerous lead levels in four schools.
In a separate disclosure last week, officials released the results of water tests for roughly 500 schools. About 80% of buildings contained at least one faucet with elevated lead, though officials said problems with nearly all of those faucets have already been addressed.
You can read the full letter below.
If your school has been affected and you want to speak with a reporter, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.