by Gordon Nary
Gordon: As principal of St John Vianney Catholic School in Flint, Michigan, this must be an especially challenging time for you and your staff with the lead poisoning disaster in Flint. which you addressed in of your weekly newsletter. When did you initially learn of this problem, and whom did you first discuss what would be the most appropriate strategy?
Lara: After switching to the Flint River water, we asked the students to bring in bottled water if their parents felt they should not drink the water from the fountains. We learned of the elevated lead issues over the summer, before school started. We had the water tested and found elevated levels. The staff decided that the students would only drink bottled water. The lunch room staff decided not to cook with the water.
Gordon: Did the initial reports stress the dangers and long-term results of lead poisoning in children?
Lara: The dangers of the elevated lead levels found in the water came out after Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha reported them and the Virginia Tech research team confirmed her findings. Only then was the enormity of impact to children’s developmental health realized.
Gordon: Did the school have any parent meetings on the lead poisoning?
Lara: We have not had any parent meetings on the lead poisoning. Our parents know that we do not use the water in our school for cooking or drinking. We will be handing out water filters and water for the families that are affected at home. We have posted information and sent literature home about ways proper nutrition can lower lead levels in children and adults.
Gordon: Has the school worked with other schools r agencies in exploring ways to address this challenges, If so, which ones?
Lara: We work closely with Catholic Charities, the Red Cross and United Way 'to make sure our students get the support they need. I’m sure there is more assistance that will be necessary beyond providing potable water. Kettering University, Powers Catholic, and many schools across Michigan and the United States have reached out to provide support for our students.
Gordon: In the opinion oi St. John Vianney Catholic School , has the current government response been adequate?
Lara: This is Flint’s chance, while we are in the national spotlight, to show how to effectively solve the water problem. We are not the only city with lead issues but we can be THE city to lead the way in solving this issue.
Gordon: If our readers want to help your students and their families with either donations or supplies' of water, who do you suggest they contact?
Lara: There are two ways:
1. Our school website is www.sjvkids.org. There is a Donate button on the front page. Please indicate that your donation is for the school’s Water Fund in the message box.
2. Send a donation to 2319 Bagley St. Flint, MI 48504 with a note that it is for the Water Fund.
Gordon: Thank you for your leadership in this challenge and suggesting ways ways in which we all can help.