Carnell Elementary reopens, though independent asbestos test by teachers union is incomplete

Mike DeNardo
January 13, 2020 - 1:29 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Students and staff are back inside Laura H. Carnell Elementary School after a three-week closure for asbestos abatement. But the teachers union said it can't guarantee that conditions are safe.

Carnell closed on Dec. 20 after asbestos was discovered. During the abatement process, School District of Philadelphia officials confirmed 12 areas in the building were “imminent hazards.” In all, district workers said they removed instances of asbestos in 150 areas throughout the building.

In a letter to parents and staff on Sunday, the district and its outside laboratory said air samples taken inside the Oxford Circle school fell within city and EPA standards for asbestos, so the school was deemed safe to reopen. But Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan said the union wasn't given a full opportunity to do its own independent testing before the school reopened.

“When the labs send the results, we're able to look at the test results and see whether or not there's an agreement that the area is indeed cleared. And that did not happen,” he explained.

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Until the union's own testing is finished in a day or so, Jordan said he won't be able to assure his members that Carnell is in fact safe to reopen. 

The district noted in its letter that due to time constraints, abatement was not completed in five closets at Carnell, though they are not used by students or teachers. Those areas have been sealed off with airtight plastic, and the district said its crews will continue with abatement during off hours and weekends when students and staff are not there.

Alexander McClure Elementary School in North Philadelphia has also been closed since mid-December for asbestos. It is expected to reopen on Wednesday.