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The $ 100 million battle of Philly to get rid of asbestos and make schools safe

Both schools proposed as alternatives for the 1,000 students relocated by the Philadelphia School District due to asbestos. also It has been found to contain asbestos in the last five years.

Students at Benjamin Franklin High School and the Academy of Scientific Leadership were supposed to start the year learning together in a renovated building on Broad and Spring Garden streets. Students missed two school days after construction delayed their initial opening. Last week, officials found asbestos exposed in the boiler room of the building and closed it to class until further notice.

At a heated town hall meeting on Monday, School District officials told parents about their possible Plan B: high school students could be relocated to Strawberry Mansion and South Philadelphia High Schools until at least January, when the city waits Have asbestos under control.

But during the 2015-16 academic year, inspections ordered by the EPA found asbestos at the facilities of both alternative locations, according to an Inquirer report. When asked how and when those schools had been authorized for classes after the discovery, a district spokesman declined to comment.

The debacle, about which, according to reports, some parents called for the resignation of Superintendent William Hite, is only the last in the district's long battle against toxic material. Anything built before 1980 is suspicious.

Over the years, thousands of other Philadelphia students have faced delays upon returning from summer vacations, and the city has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to curb the negative effects.

For decades, asbestos was a common element in the construction of the United States. In the first half of the twentieth century, advertisements at the Philadelphia Inquirer are the perfect chemical to prevent leaking roofs, offering gallons for only one dollar each.

A 1925 researcher announced the asbestos roof covering
Philadelphia Inquirer Archives

The EPA linked asbestos with cancer and banned its use in the 1970s.

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Throughout the 1980s, the Philadelphia School District made periodic requests for proposals, a common method for city agencies to find people who can help carry out specific work. On April 1, 1981, he asked for help to eliminate asbestos from a public school building.

It reads:

ROOF REPLACEMENT, UNIVERSITY CITY. B-152 80-81 GENERAL CONTRACT OF ASBESTOS ABUSE.

The city executed RFP almost identical at least once a month throughout the decade.

In 1982, the School District began to itch to recover its losses. He filed a gigantic lawsuit against 61 companies that had previously manufactured, sold or installed asbestos for the district. By then, officials said they had spent about $ 900,000 to decontaminate institutions for learning, and that they had not finished half.

At least eight school openings in 1984 were only delayed due to asbestos contamination. The city was established in 1990, and the results of the case were not made public.

Whatever the payment, it did not solve the problem. The following year, Hartranft school in northern Philadelphia had a delayed opening when construction workers accidentally altered asbestos.

The School District filed an important lawsuit against asbestos manufacturers in 1982.
Philadelphia Inquirer Archives

By 1995, the Investigator reported that the School District had spent $ 100 million on asbestos in public schools. The authorities predicted that they would continue to spend $ 8 million each year in the foreseeable future.

Last year, an Inquirer analysis of EPA records revealed that 960 public schools had damaged asbestos on the site in the 2015-16 academic year, adding up to more than 12,000 square feet of pollution. He also discovered that SDP eliminates or repairs asbestos more than 200 times a year.

In September, a lifelong teacher at Bella Vista was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer related to asbestos exposure. It is not clear if his 17-year stay in public schools in Philadelphia was directly related.

Later that month, it was discovered that Benjamin Franklin and SLA combined high school had asbestos in the boiler room. That was when the School District realized that it had to come up with a new plan. Enter Strawberry Mansion and South Philadelphia High Schools.

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So far, parents do not like the relocation proposal very much: they worried that their children were not safe in the new schools or that they would not have enough space to learn.

"Hell no," shouted one of the parents at the town hall meeting on Monday morning.

"I know you wouldn't send your children to Strawberry Mansion," Franklin's mother, Charlotte Williams, told Superintendent William Hite, according to WHYY. "That is not even an option. I swear that I will transfer my children to a different school before sending them there."

In the 2015-16 academic year, South Philadelphia High School had four reports of the toxic chemical, while Strawberry Mansion had a whopping 15.

At Broad and Snyder School in southern Philadelphia, asbestos was found in the tiles of a fifth-floor classroom, a science lab and the school's operations office. In northern Philadelphia, the Strawberry Mansion school was riddled with contaminants: in the classrooms, offices, the auditorium, the music room, the cafeteria and the kitchen.

The crowd at Monday's meeting resented the idea so strongly that some parents really suggested that Hite resign. Faced with that response, he backed away.

"Obviously, after this conversation, we will have to rethink that," Hite said at the town hall meeting, according to the Investigator.

Until the plan was finalized, a spokesman for the Philadelphia School District declined to comment on the presence of asbestos within the public schools of Strawberry Mansion or South Philadelphia.

"We missed this one," said Hite. "But now, one of the things we want to focus on is what we do now to ensure that young people return to the classroom as quickly as possible."

Source: https://billypenn.com/2019/10/09/asbestos-has-been-found-in-alternate-schools-proposed-for-ben-franklin-and-sla-students/

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