DOWNEY — The state Department of Transportation has agreed to pay nearly $342,000 to the Downey Unified School District, which had filed a lawsuit to try to recover costs of protecting students from dust and noise from construction of the Century Freeway.
The lawsuit settlement, announced last week, concluded 9 months of negotiations between the district and Caltrans.
District Supt. Edward A. Sussman said the construction noise and dust contributed to a 25% decline in third-grade scores on standardized tests in the 1987-88 school year at Ward Elementary School, located about 400 yards from the freeway construction area.
Before an air-conditioning unit was installed in August, teachers were forced to conduct classes with windows and doors closed, Sussman said. "Sometimes it would be so hot that the kids couldn't concentrate and they had to open at least a window. Then the dust would come through and the noise would be so loud they couldn't hear the teacher."
Kindergarten students also have felt the effects of the construction, Ward Principal Linda Kennedy said. "Their playground is back-to-back with the construction site. From time to time, clouds of dust have covered the kindergarten playground and forced the teachers to bring the students inside."