Re-1 officials assure parents that schools are safe
Roaring Fork School District officials are working to assure parents that their children are safe from asbestos, contrary to a Post Independent story Friday that mistakenly reported the substance is causing students and teachers at Carbondale Elementary School to become ill.”None of our schools or facilities are causing immediate health or safety issues,” Mark Fitzgerald, facilities director for Re-1, said in a news release from the district.The release was issued after Friday’s story, which erred in citing asbestos danger as one of the reasons the district is seeking passage of an $86 million bond issue this fall.District officials say the bond issue would help renovate, enlarge or replace aging schools, but health and safety standards have not been compromised in the meantime for students and staff.”We want to make sure that our kids absolutely safe, and we do,” said Re-1 superintendent Fred Wall.Wall said he believes at least one family has pulled children out of Carbondale Elementary because of Friday’s story.Asbestos is not uncommon in schools in Re-1 or elsewhere. It once was widely used in the United States as insulation and a fire retardant, and it can be found in seven district facilities, including Carbondale Elementary.However, asbestos fibers have proven to cause a long-term health risk if they are disturbed by construction or other activities, become airborne and are inhaled.That danger caused schools across the country to take actions that included removing asbestos, or encapsulating it to keep it from becoming airborne.Wall said Re-1 developed a state-certified asbestos plan and much of the containment and removal of asbestos was done during the building improvements funded by a 1993 bond election. “The location of the remaining asbestos has been identified and is continually monitored for safety purposes,” Wall said. “No problems have ever been identified in the scheduled safety and health checks.”Fitzgerald said all asbestos that is “friable” – meaning that it crumbles easily – is enclosed in areas not accessible by students of staff.Other asbestos is in floor tile that is encapsulated under carpet or wax.All the asbestos is checked at least every six months and the work documented by a district employee certified in asbestos removal.All Re-1 buildings with asbestos also are inspected once every three years by state-certified, outside companies. Carbondale Elementary’s next inspection is scheduled for Oct. 29, when students are out of class.According to Re-1, a registered nurse who oversees health aides in the Carbondale schools reports that there have been no complaints of respiratory problems by students or staff at any of those schools.Friday’s article quoted Carbondale Elementary principal Anna DeLay as saying she missed several days of school last year because the asbestos made her sick. But Wall said DeLay’s illness was only of the typical variety caused by working in close confines with children, and was not asbestos-related.Wall said Re-1 has $53 million worth of building needs that are critical and urgent. But they don’t present imminent health or safety problems.”The issue is that our schools are outdated and need to be remodeled to be effective learning environments for students,” Wall said. “For example, the electrical systems can not adequately provide for the technology needed for students. Also, heating and ventilation issues create problems for students and staff.”He said heating-related problems aren’t related to air quality, but instead involve rooms in some schools that simply get too hot or are poorly ventilated.Contact: Dennis Webb, 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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