South Philly elementary school temporarily closes due to possible asbestos

The Southwark School – a public K-8 school on 1835 South 9th Street – closed its building after dust and debris possibly containing asbestos were found in the attic

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A South Philadelphia school is temporarily closing due to possible asbestos, officials said. 

On Thursday, the Philadelphia School District’s Facilities and Environmental teams were doing a routine check of the house fan at the Southwark School – a public K-8 school on 1835 South 9th Street – to prepare for upcoming cold weather when they noticed areas of dust and debris in the building’s attic. 

Officials said the attic has floors made of plaster containing asbestos leading to concerns over the dust and debris possibly containing asbestos as well. 

“This dust and debris could contain asbestos and must be immediately addressed to prevent it being circulated throughout the building if the house fan is turned on in cold weather,” Southwark School Principal Andrew Lukov wrote in a letter to the school community on Thursday. 

Lukov said the school building will close temporarily for repairs and abatement. The Office of Environmental Management and Services estimates the repair work will take several weeks, according to Lukov. 

Friday is a regularly scheduled professional development day in the Philadelphia School District and schools throughout the district are already closed for students. Lukov said students and staff at Southwark should plan for virtual learning starting on Monday. 

“I am working closely with District leadership to develop a comprehensive plan that utilizes a nearby swing-space for in-person learning, and we will share these details by the end of the school day tomorrow (Friday),” Lukov wrote. 

Students remained out of class Monday, Oct. 30. But, would begin learning virtually on Tuesday, according to a letter sent to school families and staff.

Starting next Monday, Nov. 6, K to 5 students will move into a dedicated swing space at South Philadelphia High School while 6th to 8th graders will learn in the George W. Childs School, according to the communication from the school.

Several schools throughout the Philadelphia School District have been impacted by asbestos within the past year.

The District also sued the City of Philadelphia over a 2022 law that had dictated how the city managed environmental hazards, including asbestos, in school buildings. In July, the city and the school district announced a settlement agreement that promises more inspections and transparency.

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