Northport Middle School Closed, Students Relocated in Wake of Unsafe Mercury Levels

James Connor, Freelancer

According to a District-wide email sent out Saturday afternoon, students from Northport Middle School are being relocated to various buildings across the District. This move comes in the midst of ongoing environmental tests within the building.
Complaints over air quality at NMS have been relentless over the past few years, with the School being forced to close a wing of the building in 2017 due to fumes originating from an underground warehouse. In recent weeks, these concerns reached a new high after PW Grosser Consulting, an environmental firm contracted with the District, discovered a mercury level of 632 ppm in a cesspool outside the building. This concentration, a number 170-times greater than the New York State level of 3.7 ppm, sparked an outcry from members of the community. Some went as far as to demand that the building be closed. A petition that garnered more than 3,500 signatures insisted that “the children and teachers of Northport Middle School deserve to spend their day in a safe and healthy environment”.
These concerns were met by Superintendent Robert Banzer at a recent Board of Education meeting with a number of contingency plans, including the possibility of relocating affected students. After unacceptably high levels of benzene were revealed in recent testing, this plan – created in consultation with “the PTSA Presidents’ Council, NMS faculty, and union leadership” – was put into motion Saturday through an email delivered to district parents. Citing consideration for the ongoing testing, the District decided to send each grade to different buildings across the district. Sixth grade students will be split between the Norwood and Bellerose Avenue Elementary Schools, while those in seventh grade are set to be relocated to East Northport Middle School. The eighth graders will be sent to the High School.
With the High School’s midterms week approaching, and certain logistics of the plan left to iron out, the District has decided to cancel school for Northport Middle School students on the two days following Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Tuesday, January 21, and Wednesday, January 22). While they plan to have students successfully relocated by Thursday, January 23, the District hopes to minimize the disruption this relocation causes to the learning environment. As parents worry about the health and safety of their children, the District continues to reflect concern for students and educators alike, explaining that this move is in the “best interest of [its] students and staff”. Until the situation at NMS is remedied, NHS students will have to brace themselves for a few more crowded hallways.