Students at Sussex school closed by power lines may be sent to other schools

Posted by ksantiag September 10, 2009 18:55PM

Fredon School students running around outside during gym class on Tuesday, the last day the students had outdoor recess. The school board announced the school will be closed Oct. 1 due to high electromagnetic levels being emanated from power lines near the playground.

FREDON -- Students at the Fredon School, scheduled to close in three weeks because of officials' concerns about elevated electromagnetic-field levels at the school, could be forced to attend classes in separate locations, the school superintendent said today.

Superintendent Salvatore Constantino said he is talking to a number of other school districts in both Sussex and Warren counties that might have space available to house the school's 343 students in grades K-6 if the Fredon School, the district's sole school, closes as planned on Oct. 1.

"We're exploring all different possibilities, both in the county or the surrounding areas within a reasonable radius. Some possibilities make sense, others don't," said Constantino, who would not say which schools are being considered for alternative classroom space.

Other elementary schools in the immediate area include the Merriam Avenue School and Halsted Middle School, both in Newton, the Stillwater Elementary School, Frelinghuysen Elementary School and Green Hills School. Constantino said there's no guarantee that all of the students will be moved to the same school.

"That would be best, but it may not be possible. We'd love to see that happen," he said. "We're working on that as each minute passes."

School officials announced on Tuesday that they would close the school, located on Route 94 in Sussex County near the Sussex-Warren border, because of elevated levels of electromagnetic fields they said have been found emanating from high-voltage PSE&G power lines that cross the school's playground. They said the levels are as much as six times higher than the levels recommended by the World Organization.

The high EMF levels were found on the current 230-kilovolt line as the district and Fredon Parents Against the Lines (PALS) were negotiating during the summer with Public Service Electric & Gas about its plans to add a 500-kilovolt line from Susquehanna, Pa., to Roseland in Essex County to the line, school officials have said.

They said the elevated EMF levels could pose a long-term health risk to students and the school's 70 staff members, and want PSE&G, the state's largest utility, to move the lines farther from the school.

JCP&L has denied the lines are carrying elevated EMF levels and questioned the scientific link between high EMF levels and health risks, including leukemia in children.

Constantino said any plan to move the students to another school would need approval from the school board and the state Department of Education. An education department spokesman said it is believed that the Fredon School would be the first school in the state to ever close due to elevated EMF levels.

A meeting to discuss Fredon's school-relocation plans and other issues about the pending school closing is scheduled to be held at 7 p.m. Monday at the civic center on Route 94.

Categories: Education, Environment, News, Sussex County


mortadella33 says...

Rediculous, JCP&L will NEVER admit the EMF connection to health issues. To do so would be financial suicide as their lines are potentially causing this problem all over the place. To remediate this problem would force them to do it everywhere. However, I'm sure that it is possible to "insulate" the specific lines that traverse the area of the school so as to reduce and or eliminate the emmision to a level that is safe. Moving these kids now and burdening everyone else is just too much. Again, if they can do this now, they've proven they can do this at anytime for the purposes of consolidation of services. HMMMM????

NJdudette says...

This has been an issue for years and yet Fredon Twp. went ahead with $5 mil in renovations which were completed last week and now they're going to move?!?!?! Mind you, they've been fighting for these renovations for 8+ years. The power lines have been there for at least 25 years. Great way to waste tax payer money.

rusdev says...

This is a dead story. Trust me.

disgusted02 says...

Several thoughts come to mind...
1 - If I read another article correctly, the lines and school have been co-existing for 80 years. If so, show me some proof that diseases allegedly associated with the lines have been more prevalent in students who have previously attended the school over the past 80 years.

2 - mortadell33's last point is very good. If there is room in nearby schools (under-utilized and shrinking student population Stillwater school comes to mind immediately)to absorb these children, it means that the Fredon school is, in effect, an unnecessary tax burden and should well be closed anyway. Of course, the NJEA would fight that tooth and nail with a bunch of b.s. rationale as to why it wouldn't work.

3 - NJdudette also makes an excellent point - this issue hardly surfaced overnight, and NOW the board decides they should act, especially after a $5 mil expansion???? Why didn't the board call for a study years ago??? Ineptitude? Politics?

4 - Finally, this smells of a political powerplay - plain and simple. Instincts tell me the board is looking to either force the relocation of the existing lines, or have the utility pay for a new school elsewhere. And why not believe it possible? They paid off the Highlands council with $18 mil, I believe and they folded.