Laborers offer to lead ‘rapid response team’ for asbestos removal in Philly schools

Mike DeNardo
February 05, 2020 - 5:37 pm
Francis Hopkinson School

Mike DeNardo/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Standing outside Francis Hopkinson School on Wednesday — which is currently closed for asbestos removal — Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan said the School District of Philadelphia’s response to the crisis has been inadequate.

“They don’t have the capacity,” he said. “They don’t have the sufficient number of employees who are able to deal with the removal of asbestos.”

But some union workers are offering to help the district respond faster to reports of asbestos in school buildings. Laborers’ District Council business manager Ryan Boyer said his members are ready to serve on a “rapid response team,” as a way to quickly identify and safely remove asbestos.

“We have the capacity,” he said. “We have training schools all over the country that train people on asbestos removal and lead abatement. … We will send people from as far and wide as we need to to eradicate this problem as quickly as we can.”

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At a separate news conference at school headquarters Wednesday afternoon, Superintendent William Hite welcomed the offer.

“I’m in complete support of a rapid response team, with one caveat,” he said. “We have to prioritize what individuals are responding to.

“You can have a rapid response, and then we’re not responding to the imminent hazards,” Hite continued, “which are the most critical issues that we have to address first.”

Hite said he’d like to bring the unions and the city together with district officials as early as Thursday to coordinate priorities.

Hopkinson School is the seventh and most recent district school to temporarily close for asbestos abatement this school year.