Parents want Oakland schools to do more about lead contamination

- Some parents and school officials are calling on the Oakland Unified School District to do more to protect students from lead exposure. This comes after testing over the summer revealed lead contamination in some of the fixtures and faucets at McClymonds High School.

50 of the schools, which is more than half, have been tested for lead but that doesn't mean every faucet and fixture was tested. Parents worry some students could still be exposed to lead and the only way to know for sure is when all schools have been tested.

Most children spend more time awake at school, than they do at home; eight hours a day, 40 hours a week. Their main water source throughout the day are the fountains at school.

For students at McClymonds High school and seven other Oakland schools that have tested positive for lead, those water sources have been shut down. Still, more than half of Oakland schools are in limbo.

"We know that our children are drinking out of fountains that have not been tested," said Roseann Torres, Oakland School Board Director, District 5. 

The recent passing of a state mandate requires testing for lead at all schools, but not for all fixtures and fountains, which is why CALPIRG Education Fund is urging the Oakland unified district to come up with a policy that protects all students from further lead exposure. We're told the proposal is in the draft stages now -- but will address  the uncertainty surrounding lead testing and remediation.

"How do we change filters, change fixtures how do we get the funding, what's it going to cost and what's the level of doing the work for the 86 schools that we have," said Torres.

Parents say they want  immediate action.

"I'm advocating for filtered water stations at the sites of the schools as well as educating other parents on what to do," said Ayanna Davis, parent of a student at McClymonds High.

Even some students feel the process is taking too long.

"I don't think they're doing it fast enough because it's been three months since school started and we still have lead in our water," said McClymonds student Khyla Runnels.

So far, district officials say they've replaced the faucets and fountainheads on campus and are in the process of replacing the shower heads. As for putting in filtered water stations, they say its an option but not a permanent fix.

"Obviously there is a cost to putting in filters and you have to maintain the filters, make sure they're still working, replace them as they age out so if we can get all of our faucets and fountain heads and shower heads and all those things to a put where they're not putting out any lead anyway that's going to be the best long term solution," said OUSD Communications Director John Sasaki. 
Sasaki says the other half of the school should be tested within the next month. 
 

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