Contrary to earlier reports, some of the 120 students with special needs attending Maiden Choice School in Arbutus might have been exposed to elevated levels of asbestos last week, Baltimore County school officials said yesterday.
School officials said this week that the students, some of whom can't walk or talk, weren't exposed to the material because it wasn't released until a work crew knocked a hole in a hallway wall Thursday night. Students did not go to school Friday.
But the crew made the hole Wednesday night, which means students attending school Thursday might have been exposed to asbestos at levels above federal standards, said Douglas J. Neilson, a school system spokesman.
In addition, test results released yesterday showed asbestos levels slightly exceeded federal standards in four classrooms throughout the school, Neilson said.
Earlier tests had shown slightly higher levels of asbestos in the hallway.
Two of the classrooms open on the hallway, Neilson said. The two others are down another hallway.
But all of those tests, Neilson said, were taken before the rooms and hallways were cleaned.
Tests taken after the cleanups, he said, showed asbestos levels had fallen below federal levels, which are set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
School system staff called parents, and Principal Sharon Ward mailed a letter to their homes yesterday informing them of the latest developments.
Ward wrote that Maiden Choice is expected to reopen Monday.
"Parents should not be worried," said Michele O. Prumo, the school system's coordinator of health services. "Asbestos becomes dangerous when people are exposed to it for eight hours a day, every day, for years and years - and [when] there are high levels of asbestos. We didn't have that here."
Nancy Spurrier, the treasurer of Maiden Choice's PTA, said parents have not called her about the possible exposure.
"I don't really have any concerns," said Spurrier, whose 12-year-old daughter attends school in a classroom in the hallway that had elevated asbestos levels.
Maiden Choice has been closed since a work crew detected abnormally high asbestos levels in the school Saturday, when the crew was supposed to remove the material as part of a $2 million maintenance project.
The crew is from JAK Construction, a Baltimore contractor. Initially, the firm had told school officials that the hole was made Thursday, Neilson said.
No one at JAK Construction could be reached yesterday.