February 12 — 10:28 pm, 2020

Two more schools to close for asbestos cleanup

PFT, lawmakers want "state of emergency" declared.

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan spoke at a Feb. 5 news conference outside Hopkinson Elementary School. (Photo: Lynn Oseguera)

Clara Barton and James J. Sullivan Elementary Schools will close Thursday and Friday for further testing after inspections showed damaged asbestos in unspecified locations. These are the eighth and ninth schools to be temporarily closed this year.

The Fund Our Facilities Coalition, which includes the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, activist groups, and several lawmakers, is planning a news conference for Thursday afternoon calling once again for  Gov. Wolf to declare a “state of emergency” in Philadelphia schools and immediately release money from a state “rainy day fund” to deal with the problem.

In his budget address last week, Wolf proposed allocating up to a billion dollars for remediation of asbestos and lead in schools and other infrastructure. But the coalition says that the need is urgent.

“With a balance of more than $340 million, the rainy day fund must be utilized for the emergency conditions we are encountering in our schools on a daily basis,” said PFT president Jerry Jordan in a statement.

The news conference and a later public meeting will be held near Richmond Elementary School, which has not been closed but has had areas of the building blocked off due to asbestos remediation activities.

Last week the union called for a “rapid response team” using city unionized laborers to supplement District workers and more expeditiously address reports of building damage. The District responded positively to the overture.

“With the progress we have made in advancing our goals of a ‘rapid response team’ to address immediate concerns, the time is now to provide the funding to ensure that the program can be fully established and quickly,” the PFT statement said.

As with past closures, staff from the schools will report to alternate locations, and students will be able to pick up portable breakfasts and lunches between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. Barton students can get them at Feltonville Intermediate School and Sullivan students at Warren G. Harding Middle School. There will be no bus service for students.

“The cause for the temporary closing at both schools is due to damaged asbestos that was found during inspections of the buildings,” the District statement said. “Further inspections and testing will be conducted to ensure the buildings are safe for the re-occupancy of students and staff.”

Information for families, staff and the public will be updated on the District’s website.

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