With Riverton Elementary School closed while the Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental entities search for answers to the illnesses afflicting students, now is a good time to ask some questions. Rumors have been flying fast and furiously.

One in particular bothers me: "Nobody has been able to keep any small animal/pets alive in that school since it opened." There have been occurrences where small animals, gerbils or hamsters have died, and they may have died in questionable circumstances. However, to make the statement that the entire school has been exposed to some contamination that prevents any animal from survival for more than a few weeks is not appropriate or accurate.My daughter is in first grade, and she has had two gerbils in her classroom since Thanksgiving. With the exception of the Christmas holiday and when the students were off-track, the gerbils have been in the classroom 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Both are alive and doing well.

Last year I had a daughter in the fourth grade whose class observed several duck eggs go through the incubation process. The ducklings hatched, grew and prospered. In fact, they prospered so well they had to remove them from the classroom when the box that was their home became too small.

These two personal examples illustrate that the entire school has not been contaminated. I personally like the idea of installing canaries in the classrooms for the first three months after school resumes in Riverton. The idea reminds me of the canaries used in the old mines to warn of lack of oxygen or poisonous gases. Lack of information certainly contributes to the embellishment of a story that ought to be explored.

David P. Griffiths