In-school screening and testing for lead will begin on Tuesday (December 10) for students and staff at Shelby County Schools where elevated lead levels have been detected in water sources.

The window for in-school screenings will be open through the first quarter of 2020.

Shelby County Schools (SCS) is sending parents a packet containing an assessment questionnaire and a consent form. A parent must return the completed questionnaire and the signed consent form by the specified date for their child to be tested. Parents will not have to be present for testing.

Results will be mailed directly to the parent from the Health Department. If additional testing is needed, a Health Department nurse will contact the parent by telephone and mail.

“Student and staff safety is our main priority, and we have prioritized this issue by immediately taking action and communicating with families,” said SCS Supt. Dr. Joris M. Ray.

“We are thankful to the Health Department for their support and guidance. We know that there are many common ways children can come in contact with lead, including at homes, churches, malls, toys, and paint.

“We are committed to transparency and want to ensure that you have the facts. We appreciate the support and understanding of our families and community throughout this process.”

Dr. Alice Haushalter

Alisa Haushalter, director of the Shelby County Health Department, said that while the water sources identified were reportedly used only on a limited basis, the Health Department takes lead exposure very seriously.

“Exposure to lead in childhood can affect a child’s growth and development and ability to learn,” Haushalter said. “That is why the Shelby County Health Department is committed to providing screening and testing to the students and staff at the schools and providing parents with the information they need to make informed decisions for their children.”

About three dozen schools in Tennessee’s largest district tested positive for high levels of lead in at least one water source. The findings are a result of a new state law requiring districts to test all water sources for lead and remove them if they have more than 20 parts of lead per billion parts of water.

Those water sources were shut off, SCS said, but lead in water at school is only a small source of possible lead exposure for children. Experts say lead paint in buildings constructed before 1978 is the most common source of exposure.

(This story includes information from an earlier Chalkbeat report. For more information about the Shelby County Health Department and its services, visit