Weed Elementary transitions to distance learning while contaminated soil is removed

Skip Descant
Special to the Siskiyou Daily News

Weed Union Elementary School has temporarily transitioned to a distance-learning format while school officials remove contaminated soil from the campus.

“We are not able to open for students. We are shifting to a distance learning format for the next two weeks with the plan to return to in-person, on campus, beginning May 1,” wrote Jon Ray, superintendent of the Weed Union Elementary School District, in an email to the Siskiyou Daily News. 

Soil contaminated with diesel at Weed elementary School was discovered about two weeks ago, prompting the district to begin the eradication process. The contaminated soil was discovered during excavation work for the school’s new facilities.

The Weed Elementary School building that houses the office, library and two special day classrooms has been affected by dangerous black mold.

At that time, officials were hopeful the soil could be cleaned up during the spring break period last week. However, “a key piece of equipment” — a device to collect real-time data from around the school campus — was not immediately available, said Ray. 

“We will be shifting to a distance learning format that is different than the format we knew during COVID,” Ray wrote in a message to parents, noting the challenges a closed school presents for working parents. 

“This distance learning is not a requirement for students to attend daily, it is optional, as we work our way through this,” Ray wrote. “We will be checking in with you daily and we will be focusing on our students during this time.” 

More:Weed Elementary campus closed after contaminated soil discovered during excavation work

The school’s office will remain open during the closure, starting at 10 a.m., and will open at 7:30 a.m. beginning April 19. Weed elementary is also working to coordinate various “get-togethers around town,” with more information to come. 

It’s not clear what may have caused the soil to have become contaminated. Going back more than a century, the property was part of the Weed Lumber Company and was donated to the school district about the 1920s. 

The site was also the home of a previous school facility from the 1930s through the late ‘50s, which included a diesel-powered boiler in the basement. 

“So we’re thinking it might be from that old thing. But the amount that we’re dealing with now is very, very concerning because, this wouldn’t just be a small leak,” Ray said last week. “We’re close to about 500 yards of contaminated soil so far.”

The district is planning a new campus for its 325 students following a determination that part of its existing facilities did not meet seismic and structural regulations and that other buildings were contaminated with mold.