School Roundup: Asbestos in the Schools

In Brookfield, Connecticut, asbestos is being removed from Huckleberry Hill Elementary School and Brookfield High School, according to Superintendent Anthony Bivona. The asbestos abatement is part of regularly-scheduled renovation on the two schools, and the areas being cleaned are reportedly the last section of the schools to be contaminated with asbestos. No students are permitted access to the buildings while they are being renovated, and the district expects that once the renovations are completed the schools will open on-time for the fall semester. The buildings will be tested for contamination after the work is completed. The school district is not positive that this is the last asbestos to be removed, as renovations could uncover areas that contain asbestos the district was not aware of, according to Bivona. In Watertown, Connecticut, asbestos abatement projects are causing delay and confusion in the school district. The town council had ordered a moratorium on the projects in order to assess costs and bids from various contractors on the work. The uncertainty concerning when and whether work will be done has thrown the school district into chaos, as parents and teachers are unsure of where grades three, four and five will attend school. The abatement process will take between six to eight weeks, and cannot begin until the moratorium ends, contrary to what town officials had said at the time of the decision to halt work.

The schools cannot be occupied or used during the abatement process. The Board of Education is requesting that the moratorium be lifted so that it can finish the work before the school year begins. In the aftermath of a middle school closing in Montclair, New York due to asbestos contamination, parents are upset that the situation was handled poorly and that communication from the school district was inadequate. More than 200 students were removed from the Renaissance School over a two-day period in May after state health officials found that construction at the school had disturbed some asbestos-contaminated plaster. Air quality testing found asbestos levels were six times higher than the legal limit. After the asbestos was cleaned up, the students were allowed back into the school, but parents are unhappy over the timing of information provided to them in the wake of the incident. Jeannine Cox, parent of a Renaissance student, said “The bottom line is that someone knew at the end of March that there was asbestos in Madonna Hall, and I wasn’t notified until May. Every parent should have been notified immediately. I’m really upset that administrators withheld information. We have a right to know what was going on while our children were there.”