Tuesday, May 20, 2008
The discovery of the presence of airborne asbestos in a middle school in Montclair, New Jersey Friday prompted the evacuation of over 200 students from the school and the school’s closure. Renaissance Middle School, part of the Montclair Public Schools in New Jersey, was closed Monday and remains closed Tuesday while undergoing asbestos testing and cleaning.
According to a letter sent home to parents by the Superintendent’s Office of Montclair Public Schools on Friday, “plaster may have been disturbed” during construction on new fire doors at the Renaissance School building on Thursday.
An inspection arranged by the school district indicated asbestos was present in the plaster, and a subsequent inspection performed by asbestos consultant Detail Associates revealed “a level of airborne asbestos fibers that exceeded the acceptable range” in the third floor hallway of the school. Montclair Public Schools business administrator Dana Sullivan told The Star-Ledger that testing conducted on March 31 revealed the presence of asbestos in a brown undercoating of plaster at the Renaissance School building.
|The safety of our students and staff is always our first concern.|
The affected area was sealed off, and some students were moved to other areas of the building while others were moved to off-site locations. District Public Information Officer Laura Federico told The Montclair Times that sixth and seventh graders were transported to Hillside Elementary School, and eighth graders were bussed to Montclair High School. “The safety of our students and staff is always our first concern,” said Federico.
According to The Montclair Times, Detail Associates conducted a cleaning protocol at the school on Saturday and tested the building to make sure it did not contain unacceptable levels of asbestos fibers. The letter sent to parents Friday by the Superintendent’s Office said that Detail Associates had told the district that the building would be “cleaned, tested and cleared for occupancy by Monday morning”. The school remained closed Monday, and a meeting was held between parents and school district officials. A Parent-Teacher Association meeting is planned for Wednesday night.
The Star-Ledger reported that the ongoing asbestos cleanup of the school is being supervised by the state Department of Environmental Protection. At the meeting Monday morning between parents and school district officials, parents demanded that the inside of lockers be included as part of the asbestos cleanup. This additional step in the asbestos inspection process prompted the school’s closure Tuesday. A Monday statement by the Business Office of Montclair Public Schools said that the Renaissance School would remain closed Tuesday for sixth and seventh grade students “so that an extensive cleanup and additional asbestos testing can be completed”. Eighth grade students did not have classes scheduled as a trip to Washington, D.C. had previously been planned; the school trip is unaffected by the recent asbestos incident.
|The kids will be able to go back to school soon, and that’s the important part.|
Steve Jaraczewski of Detail Associates was present at the district meeting Monday, and said that one of four test samples taken at the school was positive for the presence of airborne asbestos at over six times acceptable levels. Jaraczewski was critical of the asbestos management plan provided by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, which owns the school’s building and leases it to Montclair Public Schools.
Jaraczewski said that the state Department of Environmental Protection has required asbestos management plans since 1988, but that the company that drafted the asbestos plan for the Archdiocese of Newark is out of business. Representative for the archdiocese Jim Goodness emphasized that the building would be back open for classes soon. “The kids will be able to go back to school soon, and that’s the important part,” said Goodness.
Exposure to airborne asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, a cancer which develops in the sac surrounding the lungs and chest cavity, abdominal cavity, or the sac surrounding the heart. Exposure to disturbed asbestos fibers can also lead to lung scarring, a condition called asbestosis, and lung cancer. Patients with malignant mesothelioma generally do not have positive outcomes, and once diagnosed have six months to a year to live.