Asbestos is found at elementary

Recreation center in school closed

June 07, 2007|By Julie Turkewitz | Julie Turkewitz,Sun reporter

The recreation center in Violetville Elementary School was shut down Tuesday after workers discovered asbestos floor tiles in the 3,300 square-foot area near the school's cafeteria.

The center was sealed off after the discovery of the asbestos tiles and it will remain closed until the tiles are replaced and other maintenance work is done, said Kurt Kocher, spokesman for the city's Department of Public Works.

The school remains open and the tiles did not pose a health risk, Kocher said.

Asbestos was widely used as a fireproofing agent in building insulation and other products until it was linked to respiratory diseases. The inhalation of tiny asbestos fibers causes lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. But asbestos poses a health risk only when its fibers are released into the air.

Kocher said the tiles were old and "cracked" -- not crushed to the point where fibers could be inhaled by someone. The city made replacement a priority before they could create a problem, he said.

"A lot of old homes and buildings have asbestos in them," Kocher said. "It's when they essentially get in a pulverized, almost powder form, that's when they are dangerous. But we don't believe there was any kind of trouble along those lines."

There are 35 children enrolled in the after-school program at the center, which is also used for activities, said Kia McLeod, director of marketing and media relations at the Department of Recreation and Parks, which operates the center.

Although the recreation center is in the school, the replacement of the floor tiles is the responsibility of the Department of Recreation and Parks, not the school system, said Edie House, a city school spokeswoman.

Principal Catherine Reinholdt sent a letter to parents Tuesday notifying them of the asbestos floor tiles.

It's been a rough week for Violetville students. Last week administrators canceled school because of mite infestation.

Keith Scroggins, the chief operating officer of the city school system, said Violetville Elementary reopened Friday, and he hasn't heard any complaints of mites since. "There are no more that we are aware of," he said.

However, the school's letter home -- and the discovery of the asbestos just as the school rid itself of the bugs -- has left some parents with questions.

Bonnie Vogel's four children attend school at Violetville, which has students from kindergarten through eighth grade. Her daughter took dance at the recreation center, Vogel said, but she won't be sending her back.

"I don't really trust her going back in there," she said. "I'm a little leery sending her to school now because of all the problems they've been having."

julie.turkewitz@baltsun.com

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