Asbestos shuts Sussex school in Essex Classes to be held elsewhere for 6 to 8 weeks.

January 29, 1992|By Meredith Schlow

Sussex Elementary School in Essex will be closed for six to eight weeks while asbestos is removed from the building and, beginning tomorrow, students will attend classes at five locations in the area, school officials have said.

The school has been closed since Friday, when routine tests found higher-than-acceptable levels of asbestos fibers in the air. Subsequent tests showed that asbestos sprayed on steel beams in the roof has made its way into the building.

"We went in there [Monday] in a very aggressive mode, and used fans and a leaf-blower to really disturb the area," Keith D. Kelley, Baltimore County's assistant superintendent for facilities, said yesterday.

"We decided that we're just going to have to do a complete abatement," Mr. Kelley said. "We're going to make a clean building out of this."

Exposure to high concentration of asbestos fibers can lead to asbestosis, a scarring of the lung tissue, and has been linked to cancer.

Sussex's 510 students, who are missing their fourth day of school today, resume classes tomorrow after furniture at their school is moved to the five Essex locations where they will be attending classes temporarily.

School officials have been concentrating on relocating and moving equipment, and have yet to determine whether exposure to asbestos may have resulted in a health risk to students, said school spokesman Richard E. Bavaria. An assessment is to be conducted soon.

Karen Maddox, president of the Sussex PTA, said parental concern ranges from the health of the students to the disruption that the move may cause.

"Prior to this, most parents didn't even think about asbestos," she said. "But, based upon what I'm hearing, [moving the children from Sussex] is the best scenario."

Yesterday parents received letters informing them of the closure and notifying them of the locations where children who previously walked to school will be picked up and bused to their temporary locations.

Prekindergarten and kindergarten students will be bused to Essex United Methodist Church, 524 Maryland Ave, where they will attend classes. All other students will travel first to Deep Creek Middle School and take another bus to their final destinations.

Teachers will accompany their students to the temporary locations and classes will not be mixed with those of host schools, so "there will really be very little change except for where they are," said Sussex Principal Robert G. Sutton.

The additional travel time will mean that classes will start about 10 minutes later in the morning and finish 10 minutes later each afternoon.

"But this will not interfere with the host school's classroom procedures," Mr. Sutton added.

This is the first time in at least five or six years that a school has been ordered closed during the school system's asbestos testing program, according to Richard L. Barranger, assistant superintendent for the southeast area.

School buildings are tested every two years with follow-up tests done at six-month intervals. The asbestos at Sussex was discovered during a follow-up test.

Parents of Sussex students have been invited to a meeting at 7 tonight at Deep Creek Middle School, where they will have a chance to ask any questions they have about the school or the temporary arrangements for their children.

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