• Healthy Schools Update: Week of August 22

    Dear PPS Families and Staff:

    We hope that you have had a wonderful summer and that everyone is excited about starting the new school year next week.

    Saturday, August 27 from 9:00am-noon is Portland Public Schools’ Annual Project Community Care Day. Join PPS staff and community volunteers to help prepare schools to welcome students back to class next week. More information is available here.

    We sent updates throughout the summer on the work underway relating to environmental health and safety, but know that your schedules are busy and it can be hard to keep track of it all.  So in advance of Monday we wanted to put all of the information in one place for you to make it as easy as possible for you to review and if necessary ask questions of us or your school leaders, who we have been working with throughout the summer.

    This video, featuring David Hobbs, Senior Director of Facilities and Asset Management, and this video, featuring Aliemah Bradley, our student representative to the Board of Education, will give you information about water usage “dos and don’ts.” These are short and concise and we hope you will watch them prior to Monday.

    Below are other updates on testing results, water usage guidelines and blood screenings. As always, please let us know if you have additional questions.

    Lead Water Testing

    The sampling of every cold water outlet in the district has been completed and all results of the initial “A” sampling have been posted individually online. We expect final, detailed reports from our contractor, TRC, for all buildings tested, including a full wrap up analysis, data and corrections to any errors in preliminary reporting. Once those reports are complete we will make them available to all PPS families and staff.

    A second “B” sample was also taken and will be used to help identify the source of lead.  An independent third party will analyze both samples, and combined with other information, make recommendations for improvement to current system likely including: 

      1. Replacement of  water fixtures
      2. Piping replacements
      3. Update protocols and procedures to ensure safe operations of all water fixtures such as flushing.  
      4. Creation of master water fixture database that tracks related maintenance history and any measurements.    

    All drinking fountains have been covered or made inoperable, and there will be water dispensers available at every building for the start of school to ensure that all students and staff have safe drinking water.

    Protocols are being established to ensure that water used to prepare food in kitchens is safe. Pre-washed food will be used in the near term to accomplish this goal.   

    Signage will be placed on access doors to all non-fountain water sources (bathrooms, labs, classrooms, etc.) indicating that students and staff should not drink from sinks or any other fixture. Non-drinking uses such as hand-washing is safe.

    School Gardens

    Last week the district shared guidance recommending that produce from school gardens not be eaten. The guidance was based on the fact that many of our gardens have been irrigated with water testing above federal drinking water standards and advice from the Oregon Health Authority that this practice not be in place.

    Since last week, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) looked at scientific research about the safety of gardening in soil that could contain lead. The amount of lead delivered to soil through water is quite small compared to the amount of lead already present at background levels in soil. Other potential sources, such as lead-based paint chips and dust, represent a much more significant contributor to soil lead concentrations.

    In general, garden plants do not absorb significant quantities of lead. However, it is important for people to wash vegetables and hands after gardening to reduce possible exposure to lead in soil, which is the major potential source of lead contamination on produce.

    We appreciate the additional guidance from OHA. As previously communicated, at this point we will not be serving food from school gardens because we are still evaluating fixtures for lead used for food preparation.

    PPS will reinstitute the use of school garden produce in its kitchens and classrooms once the cold water fixtures are available to safely wash garden fruits and vegetables. We will provide thorough training to our nutrition services staff about proper washing at that time.

    Other Water Uses

    We’ve also received confirmation that other water uses are safe including hand washing, dish washing, showering, etc.  Very little lead is absorbed through the skin from water containing lead, consequently these activities are safe even when elevated in level.  However, to be clear, water containing lead over 15 parts per billion cannot be used for drinking, or for food preparation. Food preparation includes washing any food product, be it in a school kitchen or any other school water fixture such as classroom sink.  This includes food products brought from home.

    Additionally, we know our Intensive Skills Classrooms (ISC) serve students with significant disabilities that often require medical procedures and special feeding protocols as part of their daily educational programing.  It is common for students to need food mixed in a blender and fed through a tube. In these instances, standard washing and drying are adequate.

    We have provided this flyer in multiple languages to principals and have distributed them to our schools to help our students and staff understand clearly the water usage guidelines.

     Lead Paint

    We hired four certified lead paint contractors to abate or encapsulate a large number of critical district needs this summer. Our goal was to get as much lead paint remediation accomplished before school starts, focusing on schools with K-2 populations. 

    We focused on issues at the following 40 schools: Ainsworth, Applegate, Beach, Chapman, Sunnyside, Lent, Astor, Duniway, Capitol Hill, Alameda, Creston, Arleta, Lewis, Skyline, Youngson, Chief Joseph, Boise Eliot, Bridger, Rigler, Beverly Cleary Fernwood, Abernethy, Buckman School, Richmond, Creative Science, Rose City Park, Cesar Chavez, Woodlawn, Sitton, Vernon, MLC, James John, Hayhurst, Lee, Vestal, Llewellyn, Woodstock, Markham, Marysville, and Irvington. 

    Lead Blood Screenings

    Portland Public Schools contracted with Kadalyst Health Partners to provide lead screenings for students and staff district wide. Seventeen screenings have taken place so far and additional screening clinics are scheduled for August 26 from 4:30 to 8:30pm and August 27 & 28 from 8:00 to 4:30pm at the Blanchard Education Service Center (BESC). August 28 will be the last on-site screening session offered.

    The screenings are free of charge to all staff and students. Please go to pps.kadalyst.com to sign up or call 503-916-3122.

    Of the 1,711 individuals screened, 10 children and 9 adults received elevated capillary screening results at or above the current CDC public health action level of 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood for children or 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood for adults. 

    In compliance with best practices, those with initial reports of elevated levels were advised to consult with their primary care physician for a confirmatory blood test and further analysis and diagnosis.  Confirmed elevated blood lead levels in children are subject to case management and environmental investigation by Multnomah County Environmental Health Services.  Confirmed adult cases are handled by the Oregon Health Authority and/or Oregon OSHA depending on results. 

    In addition to the on-site screening clinics, PPS also contracted with ZRT Labs to provide home test kits for those unable to attend the clinics. The details of those tests, so far, are below:

    1. 1,263 home kits were distributed
    2. 506 were processed
    3. 1 was at or above the CDC public health action levels.

    In compliance with state rules and regulations both Kadalyst and ZRT will report all test results to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). 

    To date, none of the elevated blood screenings have been tied back to PPS. 

    For more information on environmental health and safety initiatives go to: www.pps.net/healthyschools.