Philly unveils plan to combat school asbestos, lead paint

An Asbestos warning sign

The Philadelphia School District will reportedly use $12 million in operating funds and $500 million in capital funding to improve environmental conditions at 141 schools after multiple school buildings were forced to close due to asbestos concerns.

This new plan, which is part of the Healthy Schools Initiative, will impact 86,000 young people and according to NBC, is aimed at ridding the district’s aged buildings of asbestos and lead paint. 

Eighty students were displaced from a North Philly school this week after asbestos was discovered in the boiler room. A district official was reportedly inspecting Pratt Head Start, located at North 22nd Street, as a temporary space for students who have already been displaced. 

The Office of Early Childhood Education for the school district announced the building closure on Tuesday. They are relocating staff and students. It was reported that families will learn about their new school placements by Thursday.

The school district, which stopped using asbestos in buildings built after 1978, hopes to solve the asbestos issue by the end of the school year. 

Officials also called on the state of Pennsylvania to help support the plan. City Council member Helen Gym said during a recent meeting that, “The district cannot do this by itself. The city has delivered on its share of funding. It is the responsibility of the State of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth of this state, to deliver on a school infrastructure plan and funding plan that not only benefits Philadelphia but schools all across the state of Pennsylvania.” 

During the meeting, Dr. William Hite, the superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, outlined a new Environmental Safety Improvement plan. Hite explained that the plan is going to be proactive and in every school by December 20, ABC reports.

Hite said, “Some of the other actions we will be taking include strengthening our biannual AHERA inspection so that every inspector will immediately report any findings of possible imminent hazards to the district for follow up within 24 hours, expanding our resources to manage asbestos-related issues in schools with the goal of eliminating the current backlog of asbestos-related work orders by the start of the 2020/2021 school year.” said Dr. Hite.

Hite added that “We are here to educate, but students cannot learn at their highest levels, and educators cannot do their best work if they are concerned about the environmental safety of their schools.” 


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