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Cleanup meetings

COEUR D'ALENE -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hosting workshops in Idaho and Washington about the proposed cleanup of the Coeur d'Alene Basin Superfund site.

Meetings in Wallace and Medimont were held earlier this week, but today there is a meeting in Coeur d'Alene followed by one in Spokane on Aug. 21.

The three-hour meetings follow the same format, beginning with an overview presentation of the area, the problems and the many different types of cleanup needed. There will also be a discussion of the techniques that may be applied to the many different sites polluted with lead, zinc, arsenic and, in some places, cadmium.

Where residents in Wallace are mostly concerned about the removal of lead-contaminated soil from backyards and public property, residents along the Spokane River are concerned about cleanup of beaches and how much the cleanup efforts in Idaho will influence the heavy metal contamination of the sediment in the river.

At the meetings, EPA, state, federal and other experts will be present to answer questions from the audience.

A proposed plan for the cleanup of the entire area is due out for public comment in October. A decision is expected in January 2002.

The Coeur d'Alene workshop is on Thursday, Aug. 16, at the Coeur d'Alene Inn, 414 W. Appleway. The Spokane workshop is on Tuesday, Aug. 21, at the Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook. Both are from 6-9 pm. Call: (208) 664-4588.

Hiring spree

SPOKANE-- Spokane School District 81 is hiring more than 100 new teachers just prior to the new school year's beginning on Aug. 30.

"Altogether we get to hire 114 teachers," says Mark Anderson, associate superintendent for District 81. "About 50 percent of the funds go to the elementary schools. At the middle school level and in high school, we are targeting selected class-size reduction in reading, math and language arts." About 20 percent of the new funds are set aside for a teacher mentor program and for extra equipment.

Most of the funding for the new positions is a result of Washington voters' approval of Initiative 728 last fall. That initiative secured property tax funds and some state budget reserves to pay for the hiring of new teachers in an effort to shrink class sizes. This is an especially great benefit to District 81, which has lost funding because of a dip in student enrollment.

"We lost $4 million in [state] funding because of a drop in the birthrate," says Brian L. Benzel, the new superintendent for District 81. "This is exacerbated somewhat by the flatness of the Spokane economy, which makes it difficult for some of the younger families to remain here."

However, the newly hired teachers may not get their own classrooms. "Most of them will probably help out in classes that are already established," says Benzel, but the new hires are still going to lower the student/teacher ratio.

Local colleges flood the area with education majors every summer, so there are plenty of candidates. "We're fortunate that we are in an area where education graduates are widely available," says Benzel.
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