Elementary school evacuated because of asbestos scare

April 09, 2002|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

Seneca Elementary School in Bowleys Quarters was evacuated yesterday afternoon because school officials feared a suspicious glue-like substance scraped off chalkboards over spring break could be asbestos.

Tests later found no traces of the potentially hazardous material, and the school will reopen on time today, said school system spokeswoman Sharon Norman.

The scare occurred on the same day two other county elementary schools -- Villa Cresta and Johnnycake -- were cleared to reopen after problems with asbestos.

Officials decided to evacuate Seneca about 1:30 p.m., sending the school's more than 400 pupils onto the playgrounds and fields around campus for the remaining two hours of the school day. They called the move a precaution.

"I'm not one to overreact," said Lisa Schenning, secretary of the school's PTA and the mother of a kindergartener. "I'm sure there are some parents who will be very upset about this. ... I'm glad they did take the children out."

Construction work at Seneca is part of a $2.4 million renovation of the school. County schools had been on spring break since March 28 and returned to classes yesterday.

Villa Cresta in Parkville was closed for a week last month after asbestos was released in a boiler room by a worker who mistakenly cut into the wrong part of an asbestos-insulated pipe.

Johnnycake, in Westview Park, was closed for a day after a worker scraped what was believed to be an asbestos caulking off an exterior window.

In October, Hawthorne Elementary in Middle River was closed for more than three months after a worker cut into an asbestos-insulated pipe.

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