Parents critical of proposed Sparks school location


The proposed site for a new Sparks elementary school, just north of a hazardous-waste site, was attacked last night by parents who said building the school there would endanger their children.

Parents of Sparks students and many other residents hammered away at what has come to be known as the Highlands site, a 23.7-acre tract on York Road about a mile south of the school that was destroyed by fire Jan. 8.

The process for singling out the proposed site was also criticized at the community meeting, sponsored by the Sparks PTA and the Sparks-Glencoe Community Council.

Last night was residents' first opportunity to speak publicly about the site, which is just north of a hazardous-waste site once owned by Bausch & Lomb Inc., and there seemed to be considerable sentiment for abandoning it.

The council's executive board endorsed the site last week as "the best one available" but made its resolution contingent on environmental evaluations by federal, state and local governments.

Despite that caution, the council sent ballots to members, asking them to vote on the best use for the site.

Monkton resident Tom Trezise said he "engages daily in risk analysis for his insurance company" and that he doubts the reliability of any tests that could be performed on the site.

"Relying on current science is unreliable," he said. "We don't know what a safe determination from science today will mean 20 years hence."

Dr. Mort Orman, the father of a Sparks second-grader who said he has 20 years experience in internal medicine, said, "I know that one site that should be eliminated immediately is the Highlands site. Science cannot prove that you are healthy. There is no test on earth that can prove this is safe."

The owner of the Highlands site, Hico Park Limited Partnership, offered to donate the site for a school if the community would support a zoning change so that single-family homes could be built on the rest of the property, currently zoned for light industrial uses.

Because the land would be free and the Highlands site has the blessing of the community association, "there is the sense that the parents have not had a voice," said Robert Wilke, another Sparks parent.

School and community officials have said repeatedly that the Highlands site was far from certain to be chosen and that other sites were being sought.

"What I find really exhilarating is that the community has sort of stepped forward and taken back the process," Mr. Wilke said during a break in the meeting.

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