Carlsbad Teachers Demand Soil Tests

Teachers and staff members at a Carlsbad elementary school are demanding the air, ground and soil surrounding the school be tested for contaminants within 30 days.

More than 20 current and past teachers and workers at Kelly Elementary want the Carlsbad Unified School District and the San Diego County Health & Human Services Department to run a series of tests amid concerns of an unusually high number of cancer cases at the school.

“We have been patient up until now,” the group wrote in an email to the district and county health officials. “We are no longer convinced by words that are not backed by scientific investigation and documentation."

The email refers to the current investigation by county and state health officials and lists the names of about 20 students and teachers at the school on Kelly Drive who have battled cancer over the past 20 years.

The current investigation is looking at the number of cancer cases among residents to see if there is an unusually high number. Teachers and staff feel the investigation is flawed because it does not count the number of teachers and students who do not live within Carlsbad city limits.

"To Illustrate our concern, two of the four teachers at Kelly who have been diagnosed with cancer in the last five years are not even considered in the county's ‘number running,’” the group wrote in an email to the district and county health officials.

“We have been repeatedly told that the school is safe, and that data does not warrant further testing,” the email states.

Carlsbad Unified School District Superintendent Dr. John Roach said it is up to the county and state to determine if there should be any testing and their investigation is still ongoing.

"I have empathy for their concerns," Roach said.

On Monday evening, Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H. with the County of Health and Human Services said she had not received a copy of the email.

"If there is an increased number of cancer cases that is in excess of what's expected then they will make the necessary recommendations," said Wooten. Those recommendations could include air, water and soil testing, she said.

Travis Burleson, a member of the County's Cancer Task Force, has a personal interest in Kelly Elementary because his daughter is a teacher there, and she is battling a rare form of cancer.

"She has a five percent chance of living eight more years," Burleson said.

On Monday, Burleson demanded construction of a new playground at Kelly be halted until the tests can be conducted.
"If there's nothing then that's fine, but we need the testing to be sure," Burleson said. "Until we know, yes or no, we can't disturb the ground out there."

The principal at Kelly said Monday that the playground project would be delayed until after June 20. That's about the same time the state will reveal its findings in the cancer investigation.

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