Asbestos contamination closes Balto. County school

Hawthorne Elementary undergoing renovation

October 02, 2001|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

A Middle River elementary school has been closed indefinitely until asbestos contamination can be cleaned up.

A worker renovating two bathrooms at Hawthorne Elementary School on Friday night cut a pipe covered in a substance that turned out to be asbestos, a hazardous fiber when its particles are airborne, officials said.

The fibers spread out the door and into the main hallway. Despite a weekend's worth of cleaning, the concentration of airborne asbestos particles remained significantly above acceptable levels. Officials decided late Sunday to cancel yesterday's classes.

Some children didn't learn of the cancellation until they were on the way to school yesterday.

Hawthorne is closed again today and will remain closed until officials determine the asbestos is gone.

"We are not going to rush through this process," said Sharon Norman, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County schools.

The bathroom work was part of a $2.6 million renovation project at Hawthorne, which was built in 1954. The project began during the summer, when work was done on the heating and cooling, electrical and plumbing systems. New windows also are to be installed at the school, said Donald F. Krempel, executive director for facilities.

During the school year, work has been done on weekends and at night, he said. According to the terms of the contract, the renovation is to be completed by Oct. 30.

A large portion of the main hallway has been sealed off from the rest of the building. Sixty-two air samples were taken throughout the school. "The good news is the samples from the second floor have come back good," Krempel said.

Although they won't commit to a day, officials said they expect to reopen the school this week. Teachers and staff have been reporting to Stemmers Run Middle School. The school's approximately 550 pupils have stayed home.

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