Classes found for Sussex students Rosedale Center, Battle Grove school will be used.

February 05, 1992|By Meredith Schlow

New classrooms have been found for Sussex Elementary pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students, who had been jTC moved to temporary quarters at an Essex church because their school is contaminated with asbestos, only to learn that the church too contains harmful asbestos fibers.

Sussex teachers, who toured the Essex area yesterday with Richard L. Barranger, assistant superintendent for the southeast area, and the president of the PTA, announced their choices this morning, school officials said.

The pre-kindergarten teacher and one of the kindergarten teachers will hold classes at the Rosedale Center, in the 8200 block of Old Philadelphia Road, an open-space building that already houses a school for language impaired children.

The third teacher, who also teaches Sussex kindergartners, will hold her classes in a room at Battle Grove Elementary, which already is housing about 100 Sussex students.

Parents will be notified of the decision by letter today, and classes for the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students are to begin Monday, school officials said. Bus schedules and routes are to be announced.

The 140 children had been moved to the Essex United Methodist Church, where they started attending classes Monday, after disturbed asbestos was discovered at Sussex and the school was closed for abatement.

But a Monday afternoon visual inspection of the church revealed crumbling asbestos in the upper walls and ceiling tiles of halls and classrooms.

The news of a new asbestos problem left parents again concerned about their children's health and the amount of school they have been missing.

"Oh, my God! Give me a break!" exclaimed Barbara Morgan, the mother of a Sussex kindergartner, when she heard the news. "I don't know how much I can handle of this. . . . Their lungs are, like, half our size."

Ms. Morgan, whose daughter coincidentally attends a day-care program at the church, said the message left on her answering machine by the PTA president said nothing about asbestos but simply stated that officials were not satisfied with the facilities.

Patrick Talbott, the father of a Sussex pre-kindergarten 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.

"I'm worried about it . . . down the road, something could be wrong with him," he said.

Mr. Talbott also said his son is disappointed over the prospect of missing more school.

"This is a let-down for him, because he wants to learn," Mr. Talbott said. "This makes me the teacher for all this week."

Most students missed four days of school before the county closed Sussex and found new places for the children to attend classes. Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students miss their seventh day of school today.

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 while asbestos is removed. All 515 Sussex students were moved to new locations, with most students starting classes at their new location Thursday.

After a meeting last Wednesday night, school officials promised concerned parents that the buildings temporarily housing their children would be visually checked and monitored for air quality to make sure they are safe.

Each of the schools involved -- Battle Grove, Hawthorne and Colgate elementaries and Deep Creek Middle -- has passed a visual inspection and is undergoing air-monitoring tests, school spokesman Richard E. Bavaria said.

Air tests, which according to U.S. 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. Rosedale will also undergo asbestos checks this week, he said.

Asbestos fibers that lodge in the lungs remain in the body for life. While any level of exposure involves some health risk, experts believe that the more exposure, the higher the risk.

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