Schools Not Letting Students Return to East Palestine Weeks Later

A Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine on February 3 and spilled hazardous chemicals along the tracks. Three days later, on February 6, a controlled burn was conducted to eliminate the dangerous material, but some of the materials leaked into the city environment.

A press release on April 19 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPS) said the agency tested 23 locations and screened 631 homes without detected vinyl or hydrogen chloride. 

Other contaminants on board the train were Ethylhexyl Acrylate which can burn and irritate skin and eyes, cause shortness of breath and irritate the nose and throat. The other chemical which can cause dizziness or drowsiness is Isobutylene.

The ongoing problems of this derailment continue long after the event. East Palestine has learned that nearby school districts are fearful of their student-athletes competing, citing safety issues as the reason. 

The lack of competitive sports in East Palestine has cost its school district at least $75,000, according to assistant principal and athletic director Dwayne Pavkovich. The local athletes are frustrated by not being able to compete against their peers. 

Freshmen in the school lost a year of competition due to Covid closures and a lack of competitive sports during the national shutdown. 

Social media is part of the blame for posting dangerous information not authenticated by hazardous material experts. Roundtables at various schools are planned to ensure information needed in decision-making is consistent and accurate. 

Educators and school officials are alerting competing schools that businesses are open, students attend daily classes, they run track, and people commute to work in East Palestine. The school is reported to have one of the best sports facilities in northeast Ohio, yet only thirteen teams came to the largest invitational tournament, which usually hosts 20 teams. 

Lost participation, attendance, and entry fees have reduced the school’s athletic budget by an estimated 40-50 percent. The local economy is also impacted by the lost income to motels, restaurants, and local shopping.

These conditions will persist until clear lines of communication are opened to all parties involved.