Another 2 days off at 2 Philadelphia schools with asbestos problem

UPDATE — Wednesday, it was decided there will be no classes for the rest of the week for students at Ben Franklin High School and the Science Leadership Academy, while air samples from throughout the building are tested to ensure the occupied areas are clean of asbestos and acceptable for occupancy.

On Thursday and Friday, Oct. 3 and 4, from 8 to 9am, students can go to the Broad Street entrance of Ben Franklin High School to pick up a grab-and-go breakfast-lunch package.

SPRING GARDEN — Students at two Philadelphia schools that got a late start to the year due to elevator problems got two more days off due to damaged insulation material found to contain asbestos.

Those schools are Benjamin Franklin High School, 550 N. Broad Street, and the Science Leadership Academy, 1482 Green Street. They share a campus in Spring Garden, and students did not show up Tuesday, Oct. 1, or Wednesday, Oct. 2.

A letter on both schools’ websites reports the damaged insulation material was discovered last Wednesday, Sept. 25, on ductwork in the boiler room

“during a joint walkthrough with the School District of Philadelphia’s Environmental Director and the Environmental Science Director for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ Health & Welfare Fund.”

Then, the next day, staff from both parties

“identified a second damaged insulation material in the Commons area for Science Leadership Academy. The damaged material is located within an area that is currently under construction.”

Weekend testing for airborne asbestos fibers found results

“below the Philadelphia Department of Health’s threshold for occupancy. No airborne asbestos fibers were detected on the samples collected from outside the work area. However, fibers at a low concentration were detected on a sample collected within the construction area. The samples collected from the boiler room did indicate the presence of airborne asbestos at levels that need to be addressed.”

asbestos (Wikipedia file)

That caused the fifth and sixth straight days off from school. Friday, Sept. 27, Philadelphia schools were closed for staff professional development. Monday, Sept. 30, schools were closed for the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

During the two extra days off, construction was supposed to stop on the SLA Commons first floor for asbestos abatement of the damaged materials, and cleaning in the boiler room to prepare for the asbestos abatement project there.

asbestos abatement (Wikipedia file)

Also, further joint testing beyond the areas sampled will be conducted

“to rule out the presence of airborne asbestos fibers in other areas of the building.”

Next, the School District and PFT will review the progress to determine whether the schools will be able to reopen on Monday, Oct. 7. Click onto this part of the School District of Philadelphia’s website to see the asbestos testing results.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration says

“asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals that are resistant to heat and corrosion”

and have been used in construction.

However, “Asbestos is well recognized as a health hazard and its use is now highly regulated by both OSHA and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).”

Also, “Breathing asbestos fibers can cause a buildup of scar-like tissue in the lungs called asbestosis and result in loss of lung function that often progresses to disability and death. Asbestos also causes cancer of the lung and other diseases such as mesothelioma of the pleura which is a fatal malignant tumor of the membrane lining the cavity of the lung or stomach.”

And, “Heavy exposures tend to occur … particularly during the removal of asbestos materials due to renovation, repairs, or demolition.”


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