We are two students — one at Ben Franklin High School and one at Science Leadership Academy. Last week, Superintendent William Hite said that our schools would be closed to students indefinitely while asbestos abatement and construction continue.
The School District has broken our trust and someone needs to be held accountable. Dr. Hite and other district officials did a poor job communicating with students and parents about these issues. As students, we feel we have been consistently lied to about deadlines for construction and gone to school in an active construction site. For Ben Franklin students, it’s been more than a year. We believe the School District rushed this project and because of that, there are now more than 1,000 students without a safe space to learn.
Since the beginning of the school year, we have missed nearly 25% of scheduled class days. As of Oct. 6, we have missed almost two school weeks due to delays and cancellations. This is completely unacceptable. The School District sent us into a physically unsafe building.
The solution the School District proposed to resolve the issue is to place the students into other schools. Involving other student bodies is not the answer. District officials have disrupted enough students with this issue. Rushing to merge even more communities is not a solution. This situation has been handled irresponsibly and now students are suffering.
The issues students continue to face include:
Students who relied on school for breakfast and lunch don’t have access to those meals.
Though SLA students have access to laptops provided by their school to complete their schoolwork and communicate with teachers, Ben Franklin students are left without the ability to complete schoolwork. Furthermore, students with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) are unable to complete assignments and don’t have the tools to get the help they need.
Seniors going through the college application process may miss deadlines for scholarships and other applications.
Students in CTE programs who require a set amount of hours for certification have no way to make up lost hours, nor do they have access to equipment to work in their respective CTE fields.
Students who participate in sports and have invested money may have to forfeit competition because they have no space to practice.
The issue of asbestos is not isolated to SLA/BFHS — it is a citywide issue. Health hazards have been found in other school buildings and these problems require time to be fixed.
We need this issue to be corrected as soon as possible. Longtime exposure to asbestos hurts our students, teachers, and staff. We cannot wait around for this to happen to another school. The School District must act now to restore our trust.
Mecca Taylor is a 12th grader at Benjamin Franklin High School. Jade Gilliam is a 12th grader at Science Leadership Academy.