Baltimore County school officials today scrambled to find a new home for 140 students who were recently moved from an asbestos-contaminated elementary school when it was discovered that the church where they were relocated also contained the material.
The friable asbestos was discovered at Essex United Methodist Church, where 140 kindergarten and prekindergarten students had been moved last week from Sussex Elementary.
Sussex, in the 500 block of Woodward Drive in Essex, has been closed since Jan. 24 after tests revealed that the air in a kindergarten classroom had an asbestos level 40 times higher than is acceptable. Additional tests persuaded school officials to close the 30-year-old building for abatement.
School officials promised concerned parents that the buildings that will temporarily house their children would be visually checked and monitored for air quality to make sure they are safe.
Each of the schools -- Battle Grove, Hawthorne and Colgate elementaries and Deep Creek Middle -- has already passed visual inspections and is currently undergoing air monitoring tests, school spokesman Richard E. Bavaria said. Air tests, which according to Environmental Protection Agency standards have to be conducted five times in several locations in and around each building, will be completed this week, Mr. Bavaria said.
But yesterday's visual inspection of the church in the 500 block of Maryland Ave. revealed friable asbestos in the upper walls and ceiling tiles of the halls and classrooms. Parents of kindergarten and prekindergarten children were notified last night and today that classes would not be held until a new location can be found, preferably in the Sussex neighborhood by the end of this week.
School officials said last week that determining the level of exposure of students at Sussex would be impossible. However, they said it would be far below the levels and duration associated with people who develop asbestosis.
Patrick Talbott, the father of a Sussex prekindergarten student, commended school officials for getting the children out of the church so quickly, but added that he was concerned for the health of his child.