Some Philadelphia teachers refuse to return to building citing safety, health concerns

"We do not want our school year disrupted. We need the district to act quickly," one teacher said.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A handful of educators, parents, students, and some elected leaders took a stand by sitting outside their classroom Thursday at Masterman School in Philadelphia's Spring Garden neighborhood.

Teachers who were expected to report inside the building for a professional development day ahead of student's return on Tuesday refused, opting to work in the sweltering heat, citing concerns about asbestos.

"They have stalled, delayed and refused to provide accurate information," said parent Barbara Dellao.

"We do not feel safe," said teacher Ethan Tannen.

Tannen, a math teacher, said requests for documents from the school district about the asbestos, including its removal, have gone largely ignored.

Tannen went on to say information from documents they have obtained has raised more questions than answers.

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"We do not want our school year disrupted. We need the district to act quickly," he added.

Advocates are also concerned about ongoing construction at the school.

"We should not as parents be deciding whether our kids get cancer or COVID. It should be neither," said Home and School Association President Saterria Kersey.

At a news conference, Superintendent Dr. William Hite addressed the asbestos concerns.

"Based on the most recent inspection and repairs conducted, no known damaged asbestos remains," Hite said.

Hite went on to say that repairs were made at the school under the supervision of a third party in January, July, and August of this year, which addressed 60 areas of damaged asbestos; documents that were provided to the teachers.

The district further noted the teachers' concerns appear to be based on "incomplete information or a misunderstanding of applicable regulatory regulations surrounding the management of asbestos."

In a statement, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan declared the demonstration was "not a PFT organized action" but understood the staff concerns of safety.

Jordan also urged the district to release all requested information to verify the safety of the building.

Whether or not the teachers will face and disciplinary action remains to be seen.

The district also noted they've made every inspection report available to the teachers, with the exception of one that's being finalized.

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