Over the past year, individual Philadelphia School District Schools have closed intermittently due to asbestos-laden buildings deemed to be unsafe, according to local school district officials and administration. To start, for the first month of 2020, there have been two schools closed within the same week, and surprisingly the same school was reopened just two days before it was shut down again within three days for failing to meet air quality approval from union and school district officials.
EPA Air Quality Standards Were Met Despite Asbestos Levels Rising
In comparison, the airborne fiber measurement has to meet or be less than 10 million asbestos fibers to be at or below the air quality standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Again, testing performed at McClure elementary by union officials who found elevated levels of asbestos were detected, which were higher than the last time they checked. Even after McClure tested within the EPA air quality standard, school officials decided to keep the school closed over the weekend to support cleaning efforts that would enhance the air quality and safeguard students from unnecessary exposure.
Just this past week, Philadelphia District School officials reportedly reopened McClure Elementary School on a Wednesday, and upon performing air, quality tests were shut down by district officials two days later on Friday because asbestos levels had increased since the last inspection. In a statement, the School District of Philadelphia said the latest readings showed elevated levels of asbestos “exceeds what is required by law.” Of the 20 test samples collected, two were slightly elevated but still within acceptable limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency, with only one exceeding standards, the district said.
Philadelphia School District Seeks Environmental Or Maintenance Guidelines
If two in the same week were not enough, then add the third school from the district is the Francis Hopkinson School, in Juanita Park. A statement was issued regarding the closing of the school because of a pipe fitting covered with asbestos inside of a school classroom. Although the discovery was an isolated incident inside a single classroom, the administration decided to safeguard the faculty and student body by taking precautionary measures to remove the problem before resuming classes.
It is no secret that the Philadelphia School District is in serious need of renovation across the whole system. The buildings are extremely dated and under kept due to budget and the natural decline in the deterioration of the aging structures. With funding keeping district schools in a deficient personnel status, the likelihood of handling even the overall necessary upkeep of any school would be unrealistic.
For instance, one report showed the system lacked a maintenance engineer or supervisor for almost two years. Notable discrepancies have also reared their ugly head throughout the district. Stories and accounts of vents not being properly maintained with dust being present in the classroom, some buildings still left with holes in the walls, and asbestos exposure still present after inspections were completed have been reported by school district faculty and staff.
Several Schools Have Already Closed For Months
Since September of 2019, Ben Franklin High School and Leadership Academy, who shared the same campus, have closed until this present day due to damaged asbestos-exposed as a result of on-campus construction. Upon closing the schools, over 1,000 students relocated to temporary classroom settings across the district.
Following up from the aftermath of the shutdown of Ben Franklin High School, school district officials announced their safety plan this past November. “Since November, the District has been working with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) to finalize a document outlining processes and protocols,” the statement said. “We have also been waiting since November for the PFT to suggest edits and sign off on the proposal. We eagerly await the PFT’s approval so that agreed-upon procedures are in place moving forward.” The district further noted that they worked with PFT leadership on the decision to re-open McClure on Wednesday. And officials mentioned that they are trying to work with the union to establish new protocols for asbestos remediation.
School District Deficiencies Are Unfortunate
Furthermore, one of the worst effects of this environmental disaster is the unfortunate diagnosis of the former retired principal of Meredith Elementary, Cindy Farlino, the current head of the principal’s union, Commonwealth Association of School Administrators (CASA)with mesothelioma. During the District meeting, Carlino exclaimed, “When there is any kind of environmental crisis in a school, administrators need to be notified formally,” she said. “There’s no excuse for going into a school in the morning and finding part of it taped off.”
School District Officials “Pause” Their Asbestos Inspections
Philadelphia School District officials say they are taking a “pause” in their asbestos inspections to make sure that they’re effective, and an internal investigation is underway to discover what happened during the reconstruction project at Ben Franklin High School. Also, the asbestos inspections were put on hold the day asbestos test levels showed to be higher at McClure Elementary even several days after the school reopened.
Parents, teachers, district administrators, and the community are genuinely concerned for the safety and future of the district school children. Not only are the structures in need of serious renovation or remediation, but many people want to see protocols put into place so the system will never have to go through these ‘struggles’ again. Currently, Ben Franklin High School and Leadership Academy will reopen after extensive remediation with renovations are completed this month. For now, school officials are going forward and working with city planners on solving the crisis at hand.
Asbestos Exposure Is Never Safe On Any Level
Recent studies prove that harmful exposure to asbestos is not categorically limited to consistent long-term exposure. Periodic or non-occupational exposure to asbestos fibers can still cause exclusive contraction of onset mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer developed directly from exposure to asbestos and is found in the lining of the abdomen or lungs.
From new information gathered recently from scientific research, the apparent myth or theory that long-term exposure to asbestos is the only ordinary way to develop mesothelioma is not accurate. If you or a loved one believe that you are suffering severe side-effects from harmful exposure to asbestos, please seek an experienced asbestos lawyer because there is no telling how long it takes to develop mesothelioma.