The Philadelphia elementary school that was closed Monday after a significant asbestos problem was detected will be closed indefinitely, Philadelphia School District officials said Friday.
Hopkinson Elementary, at L and Luzerne Streets in Juniata, has had its students attending classes in various locations since Wednesday. They will continue to be taught in their temporary locations, said Monica Lewis, district spokesperson.
The closure will allow the district to remediate asbestos problems throughout the building, and also allow it to prepare for a lead-paint stabilization project, Lewis said.
“We’re just doing some work to make sure that the building is safe and up to par for the students and staff to return,” Lewis said.
The district is also investigating whether workers spread asbestos when replacing ceiling tiles at Hopkinson last summer. A Hopkinson teacher, not the district, flagged the possible contamination recently; other schools were likely affected, too.
The decision to shut indefinitely is a shift in district position. Initially, district officials told Hopkinson families that the building would reopen once air testing showed the school was safe for re-occupancy.
But the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers said all along that the testing — which district officials said came back at acceptable levels for re-occupancy — was not enough to ensure students’ and staff’s safety, and that it would not agree to a reopening until the required asbestos work was completed.
National teachers’ union president Randi Weingarten stood with PFT president Jerry Jordan outside Hopkinson this week, blasting the district’s response and calling for federal, state, and local action to fix asbestos problems districtwide.
The teachers’ union also said it had worked up a plan for a rapid-response team made up of 40 to 100 experienced Laborers District Council workers to handle a backlog of hundreds of reports of damaged asbestos in schools across the city.
The union and district met Thursday to discuss the proposal, and Jordan, in a statement, signaled things went well.
“The district’s response to our proposed rapid response team is very encouraging,” Jordan said.