It will be at least next week before a Gardnerville middle school reopens following decontamination after a student brought a quarter cup of mercury to the classrooms.
Superintendent John Soderman said school and health officials want to be absolutely sure there is no risk from small amounts of the metal that spilled in the gymnasium and a classroom at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School.
"We're not overdoing or underdoing anything," Soderman said. "I don't want anybody to worry that school would reopen before it's safe."
Nobody has reported feeling ill since the spill.
Soderman said the cleanup, including removal of carpets from two classrooms and replacement of some student lockers, has cost more than $100,000.
Soderman said if the district has to replace the gym floor and a school bus, that would tally an additional $250,000.
He said students would not be reimbursed by the district for contaminated materials including clothing, backpacks and even notebooks that were discarded.
"Anything (officials) felt was unsafe became toxic waste," he said. "We can't turn it loose to you and cause any risk to you or your family."
Students whose notes were discarded will be given the opportunity to get new ones before exams are given, Soderman said.
Soderman said insurance probably would not cover the damage to the school, but the district would file a claim. He said the district also is looking at the possibility of litigation against the student.
The student, meanwhile, has been suspended for 10 days and could face expulsion, according to Roy Casey, assistant superintendent of education services.
If classes resume on Tuesday, the day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, it would be two weeks after the student brought the mercury to the facility.
Soderman said the district plans to make up the lost time. Options including adding the days at the end of the school year, double sessions or longer school days.
The Nevada Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday it will sponsor a new program to collect and safely dispose of metallic mercury that Nevadans have in their homes.
The decision comes in the wake of the contaminations at the middle school and in a Clark County home, Environmental Protection Deputy Administrator Jolaine Johnson said.
"We do not want people to get alarmed over these incidents and start dumping whatever mercury they have down the sink or in their trash cans," she said. "It can cause serious health problems and environmental damage if not handled properly."
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Source: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts46.html (The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Web site)