Parents decry school opening despite asbestos

March 26, 2002|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

Parents of children who attend Villa Cresta Elementary told school officials last night they can't believe the school was allowed to open last week - 90 minutes after asbestos fibers were released into the air in a boiler room.

"If something happened before the kids came to school, why do you want to put our kids at risk?" said Matt Moran, a father of two Villa Cresta pupils.

About 7:45 a.m. Wednesday, a construction worker cut an asbestos-insulated pipe, releasing the potentially harmful fibers.

The boiler room was inspected visually by an industrial hygienist working for 3D/International, the company overseeing renovation work at Villa Cresta, said J. Robert Haines, deputy county school superintendent.

The door to the boiler room was locked, and no air testing was done until eight hours later.

After the testing, students competed in a spelling bee at the Parkville school. Some parents said they had to enter the school through the boiler room for the event.

Haines said there is a "strong possibility" that pupils were exposed to elevated levels of asbestos later found in the hallway of the kindergarten and first-grade wing. He told parents he is as upset as they are that the school was allowed to open. Had he been told there was a chance of a problem, Haines said, he would never have allowed it.

The contractor had not been authorized to be in the building, said Donald F. Krempel, executive director of facilities for county schools.

Schools health services coordinator Michele Prumo assured parents that their children were not harmed by any exposure. "It was minimal," she said. "It was short - if it occurred."

The school has been closed since Thursday, and will not reopen until the spring holiday ends April 8.

Parents berated school officials in October after a similar asbestos release - when school was not in session - shut down Hawthorne Elementary in Middle River for more than three months.

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