Indoor, outdoor air at Grosse Pointe school 'well below' federal levels

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Harper Woods — Results from the first round of air quality tests inside and outside of a Grosse Pointe public school building show samples far below federal guidelines, school officials said on Monday.

A device takes samples to measure air quality outside Poupard Elementary School in Harper Woods. Testing began Aug. 1 and will continue through the school year.

The Grosse Pointe Public School System received test results from samples collected Aug. 1 at Poupard Elementary School in Harper Woods, which the district operates.

District spokeswoman Rebecca Fannon said a laboratory report from Testing Engineers and Consultants for the volatile organic compound samples show all were "well below" EPA guidelines for screening levels based on a 2009 nationwide monitoring program for schools.

Air quality tests were done after concerns were raised this summer by parents and the school board president ahead of the school's closure in June 2020.

"The district will continue to update the community as additional rounds of testing come in, but we are delighted to report these results," Fannon said.

The tests are measuring volatile organic compounds or VOC, which are organic compounds. Gasoline and diesel fuel contain a high percentage of VOC, which is emitted through the exhaust systems of vehicles as part of the combustion process.

Fannon said EPA screening levels vary by each volatile organic compound. The tests measured for the presence of 36 compounds.

"There aren't regulatory "limits" but those are the screening levels," Fannon said.

There are three locations where air samples are being collected: inside the building in room 103, which is at the far east end of the school and closest to the expressway; outside on the east playground near the Interstate 94 service drive and outside on the west playground.

Testing will continue throughout the school year. Time integrated samples are taken from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

The company also conducted the first round of dust monitoring at Poupard on Friday, which was also well below the EPA values, Fannon said.

Poupard, located along Interstate 94 and part of the Grosse Pointe Public School System, is slated for closure at the end of the 2019-20 school year as part of a district-wide downsizing in the Wayne County school district.

The school, which is a school that serves a predominately black student population, is 500 feet from I-94 and is the district's only Title 1 school.

Questions about the quality of the outdoor air at the school were raised during a school board meeting in June when the board of education voted to close Poupard and Trombly elementary schools.

On June 24, the school board voted to close the two schools and approved a K-4 and 5-8 reconfiguration. The reconfiguration will result in the move of all fifth-grade students to three middle schools starting with the 2020-21 school year.

The actions follow 15 years of declining enrollment in the district, which has meant financial losses for the affluent Metro Detroit district, officials said.

With each student equal to around $10,000 in school revenue, the district's average 100-student drop per year is $1 million lost.