And Yet ANOTHER Asbestos School!

If you are a regular reader of this part of, you by now have probably lost count of how many stories we have presented on the subject of asbestos contamination in the nation’s public, private, and parochial schools. It has happened yet again, this time in the Maryland community of Bel Air. The Homestead-Wakefield Elementary School is fifty years old this year. As it is an aging structure, it should come as no surprise that asbestos was discovered by HVAC crews working on the building’s heating and air conditioning system. In fact, virtually all buildings that were constructed during the first seven decades of the twentieth century contain at least some asbestos materials.

To undoubtedly enthusiastic students’ joy (and parents’ consternation), classes were cancelled, the school building was closed down, and all after school activities were relocated. Spokesman for the Harford School District Joe Licata acknowledged: “It’s an old building and we know we have asbestos in this building in various places… It’s not uncommon to have asbestos in the building. Most buildings built before the mid-70s have asbestos material throughout.” Asbestos abatement is now being undertaken by licensed contractors. Parents received e-mail alerts from school administrators acknowledging the problem but assuring them that the asbestos was “not disturbed” and that air tests will be conducted before the school is re-opened and students allowed to return.

Nonetheless, not all parents were convinced. Melissa Stout, a school volunteer whose seven-year-old son is a second-grader, said, “I was very shocked that there was asbestos in the building and very concerned for my son’s welfare.” While acknowledging feeling “confident that they won’t send him back until they make sure everything is clear,” she adds that “…as a parent, I am still very apprehensive about it.” Too many public school buildings have been allowed to deteriorate over the past three decades. Because of this, elementary school teachers are among those who are at greatest risk for asbestos disease. The Harford School District is fortunate that it had the funds with which to deal with its own asbestos issues. Asbestos is expensive to deal with, and many of today’s cash-strapped public schools must be very creative in finding solutions for their asbestos contamination problems…