Philadelphia

2 Philadelphia Schools Closed ‘Indefinitely’ Due to Asbestos, School District Says

Two Philadelphia schools will stay closed "indefinitely" due to asbestos that was found during renovations, Superintendent William Hite said Friday afternoon.

Students at Benjamin Franklin High School and the Science Leadership Academy, which share a building on Spring Garden Street, will be moved to alternative locations.

Those locations have not yet been determined, Hite said at a press conference.

About 1,000 students are affected by the move.

The School District also said it would host two town halls Monday, one at 9 a.m. and one at 5:30 p.m., to talk with parents about their concerns.

Exposed asbestos was found on Sept.  25 around air ducts in the boiler room at Benjamin Franklin.

Science Leadership Academy shares the property with Ben Franklin High and asbestos was found around ducts in a common area currently under construction, the district said.

The hazardous material was discovered during an environmental inspection carried out by the district and teacher's union, district officials said. The air was tested for asbestos fibers and additional ducts were checked. The district said fibers were discovered, but that testing came back within acceptable levels set by the Department of Health.

The union has called for the district to spend $100 million to make vital physical improvements to aging and neglected city school buildings across the city. They claim asbestos has been found in about 150 buildings in the school district.

"How you do a $37 million project and don’t think about a contingency plan?" asked Patricia Brown, a teacher at Ben Franklin High for 20 years.

"What if this happens? Where are we going to put the children? Where are we going to put the staff? And now you still saying you don’t know?"

She said the construction had been tough on teachers and students alike.

"Some days have been really bad, really bad. We’ve had some clouds of dust. We go walking through dust storms."

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