2 Philly schools will stay closed for the rest of the week

Mike DeNardo
October 02, 2019 - 6:40 pm
Construction at the newly-combined Science Leadership Academy and Ben Franklin High School.

Mike DeNardo/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The School District of Philadelphia says two Philadelphia high schools will stay closed for the rest of the week for asbestos testing and removal.

Superintendent William Hite says testing shows no airborne asbestos in the building shared by Ben Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy.

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"We will be closed the remainder of this week. And we will come back and continue to do some testing and abatement and then run some additional tests over the weekend to determine what happens next week," Hite said Wednesday.

He says administrators will decide over the weekend on the status of school for Monday.

The building at Broad and Spring Garden streets has been closed for students and staff since Tuesday, after asbestos was discovered in the boiler room and a first-floor common area under construction.  

Hite says if the building remains closed beyond Monday, the district would come up with an alternate site for students to attend class.

"If we have to do something beyond Monday, we will have to come up with a different plan. A different plan either for students to be housed somewhere else, because I don't want to keep them out for much longer than we have to," he said. 

He says the school will be providing grab-and-go breakfasts for children on Thursday, and staffers will distribute TransPasses to students at the school on Friday.

SLA phys ed teacher Pia Martin believes it will be safe to go back to school at some point when the construction is finished and the asbestos is removed.  But for now, she says, she is frustrated. 

"I am concerned as a health and phys ed teacher that I am not only making decisions about my health, but I'm making decisions about my students' health when I am being asked to instruct in a space that I already knew wasn't a good space to be in," she said.

SLA math teacher Erin Giorgio says she's not going back to the Ben Franklin building until the environmental director for the teachers union gives the okay.

"We were told it was safe to go in the building at the start of the year. We quickly found out it wasn't. We were told it was okay again. And I feel like every time along, we keep getting strung along," she said. 

Teachers have signed a letter to the school district demanding that the PFT's environmental expert Jerry Roseman be present at inspections and meetings about the asbestos found in the Science Leadership Academy-Ben Franklin High building, and that the building not be reopened until two-party test results are made public.

"Until we are told by our PFT health-environmental person that it's safe to go back in the building, I am not going back in the building," Giorgio said.

Martin says seniors are missing out on valuable instructional time before college, and parents of new students may be having second thoughts as well.

"We've got ninth-grade parents who now have to wonder, like, 'Did I make the right decision?' because I'm talking about asbestos, I'm talking about missed days. I'm not getting my needs met in terms of instruction," she said.

Teachers have been sending out lessons online, while the building has been closed.