Monday, January 12, 2009

Questions about district's policies re: asbestos plaster failure

At tonight's public hearing PURE Reform will report on conditions at school buildings with extensive asbestos plaster and request clarification as to the district's policies regarding asbestos plaster.

The PG was kind enough to cover this issue in advance of the meeting:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09012/941200-298.stm

We need to clarify however that PURE is not claiming that Schenley was safe to use "as is" for the Fall of 2008. Rather, PURE is asking whether the district's maintenance and safety precautions and standards for the other buildings are consistent with those applied to Schenley.

At a later date, with a clear understanding of district policies and practices regarding asbestos plaster (including what types of conditions are considered "safe" or "unsafe") options less expensive than total renovation for making Schenley as safe as other district buildings with pervasive asbestos plaster might present themselves. But certainly we have insufficient information at this time to draw any conclusions as to the Schenley building.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive."

Anonymous said...

This will really hack off a few people.

Questioner said...

We hope not- at this point we really just want to better understand the policies for dealing with asbestos plaster and whether they are being applied consistently.

Kathy Fine said...

Although the PG article is framed in the context of the Schenley closure, PURE Reform wants to stress that this should be viewed in the larger context of transparency, accountability and stakeholder participation in the reform process. The Schenley closure was presented to the public as a necessity for the sake of safety for our students. But the information uncovered regarding other PPS facilities shows that asbestos and plaster failures can be addressed without emergently moving students and closing facilities.

The district continues to state that the Schenley facilities problems were much more serious than the other buildings, but this is not what our research has revealed. The district is also claiming that the electrical, ventilation and plumbing problems made the building too costly to repair. Yet there will be millions spent on other facilities (Millione, Frick, Peabody) that could have been housed at the Schenley facility. It was impossible to get realistic numbers regarding costs and alternatives because of the claims that the building was unsafe to house students and that we had to close the building NOW!

PURE Reform is concerned with the district as a whole. We are not saying that large changes are not required to improve our district, but these changes must be thoughtful, meaningful and involve true community input. We have been asking for a thorough facilities management plan for over one year and we are still waiting.

Anonymous said...

The reason for closing Schenley changed as time went on. It began as an asbestos issue, then became a safety issue, then a liablity issue. Now that concerns about asbestos in other buildings have surfaced, it has become an HVAC systems issue. Each time the interpretation of the problem evolved, the costs became higher- or so we were told. As the district was advised by many experts in the various fields that handle these issues, there are a different approaches to solving these problems, if the desire to solve them is truly there.

Kathy Fine said...

Anonymous hit the nail on the head..."if the desire to solve them [problems] is really there.

I also agree that the reasons for closures were constantly evolving, but the one rationale that remained constant was the need to split up Schenley and to open University Prep because these students were being under served at Schenley and that small, themed, 6-12 high schools would be the answer to our struggling schools, despite being presented with research from Columbia University that shows that the 6-12 configuration does nothing to improve academic or non-academic outcomes (http://www.iserp.columbia.edu/research/working_papers/2004_05.html)