PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Initially the schools were only going to be closed for Wednesday, but now we’re learning damaged asbestos was found.
Students and parents are concerned about their health after exposed asbestos was discovered during a standard three-year re-inspection at Simon Gratz High School Mastery Charter and Mastery Charter Gratz Prep Middle School in North Philadelphia.
Crystal Simmons’ son is a 9th grader at the high school.
“We’re talking about taking him to doctors, making sure he’s OK,” Simmons said. “You know, making sure everybody’s not exposed. How long has this been going on? Like, it’s going to be questions and answers that they’re definitely going to have to tell.”
The buildings will be closed for the rest of the week, affecting about 800 students from the high school and 250 students from the middle school.
While the charter schools operate independently, they’re housed in buildings owned by the School District of Philadelphia.
There’s no word whether virtual learning will be an option or if students will be relocated to another school.
“Due to all the trouble and the bad things that’s been happening, I don’t want him too far from home, so it would just be trouble and on me to worry if my son is OK,” Simmons said.
The discovery comes one week after exposed asbestos was found in the auditorium and stairwells at Building 21, a high school in West Oak Lane.
In an email sent to parents Tuesday afternoon from the district obtained by CBS Philadelphia, Superintendent Tony Watlington wrote students will transition to virtual learning by week’s end after the district received approval from the state education department.
The email also states students who feel unsafe attending in-person instruction at Strawberry Mansion High School will be marked excused, but families have to provide a written statement about their concerns.
The President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Jerry Jordan, says every student deserves to go to a safe school. He spoke at a news conference hosted by mayoral candidate Helen Gym.
“We’re talking about a basic human right and when we’re not meeting the most basic needs of our young people and their educators,” Jordan said. “We are failing as a society.”
In an email to parents, the charter operator says it’s planning to distribute four meals outside mastery prep elementary school for families that need them.
As promised, we wanted to provide you an update in response to today’s school closure as well as next steps. Mastery Schools was notified late last night by the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) that technicians performing a state-mandated asbestos inspection found damaged asbestos on site at our Simon Gratz H.S. campus, which includes Gratz High School and Gratz Prep Middle School. The School District of Philadelphia owns this building, and the inspections are being conducted in accordance with the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, which requires periodic inspections in all public school buildings.
While we were unaware of the existence of these conditions prior to the inspections, the safety of our students and staff is our primary concern, and for this reason the Gratz campus – including both schools – will remain closed at least through Friday, March 10th, pending the completion of the inspection.
We are committed to keeping parents and the public fully informed about this situation, and will provide an additional update on Friday, March 10th at 4 p.m. In the meantime, we thank you for your understanding and patience as we work vigilantly to ensure a safe and prompt return to school.
Please note: Mastery will also offer four meals to families that will be distributed outside on the 18th Street side of Mastery Prep Elementary School located at 1801 W. Pike Street on Thursday, March 9 and Friday, March 10, from 2-3pm. Virtual educational resources will also be provided during the closure.
Top five activities to keep your student engaged in academic practice at home:
- Homework: Students can complete any missing or pending homework for all of their courses. Assignments can be turned in when school reopens next week.
- Reading: Your student should have an independent reading novel or text from Springboard aligned to their English course. Students can log-in to access online features using Clever (instructions attached). Now is also a great time to renew students’ library cards.
- Khan Academy: Extra practice is always beneficial to students, particularly in core subjects like math and science. Students can create a free account at Khan Academy, enter their grade, and the courses they want to access for extra practice.
- Math: To get some extra at-bats in Math, students can log-in to IXL or Agile Mind through Clever (instructions attached) to get some extra practice.
- Women’s History Month: March is Women’s History Month. Consider encouraging your student to read several biographies of historically influential women and discuss their impact with you.”
There’s no word when the middle and high schools will reopen.
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