Philly School District launches plan to react more quickly to environmental concerns in schools

Mike DeNardo
November 19, 2019 - 3:05 pm
Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite at a news conference.

Mike DeNardo/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Faced with nearly daily headlines about asbestos and other environmental issues, the School District of Philadelphia is planning a quicker response to problems in school buildings.

The district is launching a plan that includes hiring more workers so it can respond to reports of asbestos or other environmental problems within 24 hours. 

Superintendent William Hite at a headquarters news conference said the district is using $12 million of $500 million it's borrowing to address environmental concerns at its aging buildings. He said the goal is to eliminate the current backlog of asbestos work orders by next September.

"These are lofty goals, but we need to get this right," he said.

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Hite said addressing lead paint and eliminating known asbestos issues would cost an additional $150 million over the next five years. 

City Councilmember Helen Gym said the state needs to contribute its share.

"The School District cannot do this work alone," she said. 

The announcement came amid word that asbestos concerns were forcing the relocation of preschool students from Pratt Elementary School. The district closed the north Philadelphia school in 2013, but early childhood programs continued there.