School district announces relocation plan for Philadelphia students impacted by asbestos

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A Philadelphia school district task force has decided on the temporary relocation sites for hundreds of students who have been displaced due to exposed asbestos in the school building.

A thousand students who make up the shared campus of Ben Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy in Spring Garden have been out of school for more a week.

The Ben Franklin-SLA Task Force decided that Ben Franklin students go to the former site of KHEPERA Charter School located at 926 W. Sedgley Ave.

The task force also said that SLA students will be temporarily moved to the school district headquarters on N. Broad Street, located a block from the current campus, along with Rodeph Shalom synagogue.

Students will resume classes on Monday, said Superintendent William Hite at a news conference.

The revisions come after heated town hall meetings earlier this week where furious parents expressed concerns over plans and delays.

The schools have been closed since Oct. 1, following the discovery of asbestos found in damaged insulation in the campus boiler room.

Asbestos fibers were also detected at a low concentration in the Science Leadership Academy common area, which is currently under construction.

All of this happened after classes were originally delayed at the start of the school year due to a $37 million construction project at the school.

The project was supposed to be completed in July, but that didn't happen.

"It is clear we significantly underestimated the challenge of maintaining a safe and healthy school environment for students and staff while also continuing major construction on multiple floors during the school day," Superintendent Hite said in a letter to parents.

Last month, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers called for an immediate $100 million investment to eliminate lead and asbestos from every school building after they say a longtime teacher at Meredith was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which has been linked to long-term exposure to asbestos.

The teacher has worked in district schools for three decades.

School district officials acknowledged they have many older buildings with asbestos and lead-based paint, but add they have comprehensive protocols to asses and monitor conditions to ensure students and staff are safe.

The district couldn't give an exact number on how many of its schools have asbestos or lead, but the majority of their 220 schools are over 70 to 80 years old.

The district reports they have completed more than 1600 asbestos remediation projects in the last three years.

This fiscal year alone, between capital and operating budgets, the district has set aside $20.7 million, specifically for asbestos abatement and lead paint repairs and assessments in schools, but district officials acknowledge they need more funding and must prioritize issues.

If an immediate threat is identified, they say that the area is shut down.

Families, media and the public are urged to monitor the District website at
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