McClure Elementary School in Hunting Park closed again due to asbestos

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Friday, January 17, 2020
McClure Elementary closed again amid asbestos concerns
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McClure Elementary School in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia was closed Friday because of asbestos, just two days after students returned to class.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Angry parents, teachers and students, marched in front McClure Elementary in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia on Friday morning calling for safer conditions.

The district was forced to close the building for additional cleaning, just two days after it reopened because of prior asbestos concerns.

"They told us they would tell us if any test results came back elevated immediately, they waited 21 hours. They told us if the test results came back elevated, they would close schools. They did not close schools. I trust nothing that The School District of Philadelphia says," said Rachel Boschen, a teacher at McClure.

The school reopened Wednesday morning for the first time since before winter break. However, many say the doors should have never been opened. Testing Thursday night showed elevated levels of airborne asbestos. As a result, the district closed the school again, just hours before the bells were set to ring.

"To William Hite, I would like to say if the building was safe yesterday, bring your kids, sit in the classrooms with us," said Beth Miller, a Mental Health Clinician at McClure .

In a statement, the district said, "Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our students and staff. Our commitment to this guiding principle is evident by our actions -- in closing schools, sealing off areas of concern, expanding our capacity to address immediate safety hazards and conducting additional testing going above and beyond what is required by law. The School District of Philadelphia is not interested in politics; we are invested in educating our students in safe learning environments so that they read on grade level, are prepared for college and career, and are ready to become the next generation of leaders of this city.

Since November the district has been working with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers to finalize a document outlining processes and protocols. We have also been waiting since November for the PFT to suggest edits and sign off on the proposal. We eagerly await the PFT's approval so that agreed-upon procedures are in place moving forward.

Last evening's testing (January 16) conducted at McClure, in conjunction with both the District and the PFT, exceeds what is required by law. The testing was also aggressive; technicians used leaf blowers to stir up the air which exceeds recommendations typical for diagnostic school testing. Of the twenty samples collected, two were slightly elevated, but still within acceptable limits designated by EPA and AHERA standards. One additional sample was above the EPA and AHERA clearance standards. The decision to close McClure today was made so that the District and PFT could work together to thoroughly clean the third floor and the City Year office -- work that was already scheduled to be completed this weekend. The cleaning will include HEPA vacuuming and wet wiping all surfaces. A visual inspection of the areas and additional air sampling will be performed before the school reopens.

The District worked with PFT to ensure the building was safe for re-occupancy when students and staff returned on January 15, with both parties agreeing to reopen. And we will continue to work with the PFT as we move forward. We are committed to meeting all safety standards, even aggressive ones exceeding legal requirements. And we look forward to welcoming students and staff back to McClure once cleaning is complete so that they can return to teaching and learning."

Parents and teachers say they still don't feel the building is safe and say the district is failing when it comes to their trust about asbestos concerns.

"Yes, children are our future but you are saying that but you are not really showing it. Show it," said one parent.

"They have broken our trust. If they had yesterday said, 'Our bad, we missed it, we messed up, let us fix it. Let us close you down tomorrow,' I would say, 'Okay, I trust that you are going to make those changes,' but how can you trust someone that continues to lie to you?" said teacher Eileen Broderick.

The letter from the School District directed families to McClure's website, where results of the air quality tests will be made available.

Carnell Elementary School in Oxford Circle reopened on Monday after also being closed for weeks of asbestos remediation.

Hopkinson Elementary School in the Juniata section of the city is also dealing with asbestos concerns, however that school is remaining open as work is completed.