District Wants Asbestos-Ridden School to Close

A report released yesterday by the superintendent of the Pittsburgh (PA) Public Schools presses for the closing of the city’s Schenley High School, noting that a whopping sixty-eight percent of the materials tested in the dilapidated building contain asbestos.

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, AGX Inc. Environmental Consultants collected 406 samples from the plaster, ceiling, tiles, carpet and other areas of the school, which is located in the Oakland section of the city, and found that 277 contained asbestos.

“This is the only building I know (in the district) where every ceiling, every wall on every floor has asbestos in it,” said Richard Fellers, the district’s chief operating officer, during a tour of the building with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The danger of asbestos and the cost of removing it and renovating the property has prompted superintendent Mark Roosevelt to recommend closure for the second time in just a few months. The school would remain open until the end of the 2007-2008 school year.
During the past four years, estimates for the cost of abating the asbestos and renovating the building’s mechanical systems have ranged from $42.4 million to $86.9 million. Roosevelt has told board members and the general public that $64.4 million is the best estimate.
“You’re talking about a basic gut job where every system needs to be replaced,” Roosevelt said at a recent news conference.
For now, Roosevelt says, air quality at the school is being tested once a week and falling plaster is inspected three times each week. He assured parents that the school is safe for students, staff, and faculty.
Vidya Patil, the district’s acting director of facilities, is in charge of maintaining the building and keeping it safe. His daughter, Oona, 16, is a junior at Schenley and she and her friends are unhappy with the proposal to close it.
“I’m very concerned about the deteriorating condition in the building — particularly the asbestos,” Patil said. “The amount of monitoring and dollars it takes to keep it safe is almost unbearable.”

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