"Rapid response team" proposed to fix Philadelphia schools with asbestos

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Local labor and teachers unions gathered Wednesday and called for action, proposing a rapid response team to help fix environmental safety issues plaguing schools in the Philadelphia School District.

Teachers, union representatives and parents gathered outside Francis Hopkinson School, the latest school to be closed in the Philadelphia School District due to environmental safety concerns.

"Dozens of areas of damaged asbestos exist inside of Hopkinson and the districts' response has been wholly insufficient," said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

"We are proposing to the district a rapid response team," said Laborers District Council Business Manager Ryan Boyer. "Between 40-100 workers. Highly trained. Highly skilled. Some of the best in the region to eradicate these problems in these buildings."

School district officials held a news conference hours later, on board with the idea of a rapid response team, adding that last week the school board approved more funds to help fix the problems.

"In fact, $34 million was put aside to ensure that we had more individuals who could come to schools to do this work," said Dr. William Hite, superintendent of Philadelphia Schools.

District officials say when planning their work they have to give first priority to the schools that have "imminent hazards" as deemed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Jim Creedon, Interim Chief of Facilities for the school district, says right now there are five of those schools in the district with imminent hazards, and Hopkinson School is one of them.

Dr. Hite said a meeting between the school district and labor and teachers unions could take place as early as Thursday.
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