Students return to Pau-Wa-Lu today

Students returning to Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School today will find their school has changed substantially since a mercury spill forced their evacuation two weeks ago.

The school was closed Jan. 6 after a student brought in a quarter-cup of mercury, contaminating the building and many of his classmates' belongings.

A 10-by-20-foot portion of the big gymfloor had to be removed, and carpet torn up in several classrooms.

"When students go back to school, it will look like there was a mercury spill," Douglas County School District Superintendent John Soderman said. "Everything will be safe. It won't be fixed, but it will be safe."

In addition to carpeting removed and the portion of the gym floor ripped up, lockers have been pulled out from the locker room. The small school gym will open when school gets back in session.

"All the places students will be have passed the required level," said Jolaine Johnson, deputy administrator of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.

Soderman said students will be required to make up in June the eight days they missed.

Officials estimate $100,000 was spent on the cleanup, including $50,000 for 1,700 square yards of carpet that were removed. The cost could be more if the district has to replace an $80,000 school bus that carried the student who distributed the mercury.

The student who brought the mercury to school is to be suspended for 10 days and may face further disciplinary action from the school district, officials said.

No decision has been made whether criminal charges will be filed. Authorities declined to identify the student, who is the subject of an ongoing investigation.

A brief summary of events and information will be sent home with middle school students the first day back, Soderman said.


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