PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia Board of Education voted on Thursday to spend $34.4 million to hire multiple firms to remove asbestos from district schools and manage the process.
The allotment of funds appeared to indicate the district will begin taking a proactive approach toward identifying potentially problematic areas of asbestos before they are an imminent health risk.
Dozens of district teachers, parents and some students attended Thursday's board meeting which was preceded by a protest outside.
"There's a reason they are not looking on their own. That's because they know the more they will look, the more they will find," said Lou Fantini, a teacher at Franklin Learning Center, as he was surrounded by fellow teachers holding signs with messages that called for safe schools and more asbestos testing. "No Testing. No Admission," read one sign.
Asbestos, which can cause multiple lung-related problems after long exposure, has forced the district to shut down multiple school buildings over the past year. It wasn't until concerned teachers and parents insisted on testing at McClure Elementary in North Philadelphia that asbestos was finally identified and removed this month.
Teachers at the board meeting were skeptical about district plans to spend more money on testing and abatement without any promise to increase transparency.
"The parents have been left out. The staff has been left out. That's unacceptable," said Rachel Boshen, a teacher at McClure.
District spokesperson Monica Lewis said the district believes it has communicated effectively with the community about asbestos and it looks forward to increasing community engagement in the future.
$34 million approved for asbestos removal in Philadelphia schools