When Chicago Public Schools students return to classrooms on Monday, dozens of their schools will have undergone asbestos abatement during the summer.
The city’s Public Building Commission coordinated the asbestos removal in 88 schools; 43 of those are receiving buildings that are absorbing thousands of students whose schools were shuttered as part of the massive CPS school closures.
“I would tell people who are not routinely involved in renovation that this in fact is very routine, very regulated and it’s not something that should cause any concern,” said Erin Lavin, executive director of the PBC.
As part of closing 50 schools, CPS promised renovations to the schools many children from closing schools would attend.
Repairs can disturb asbestos, so every school that’s subjected to renovations is tested. If, for example, a classroom floor is positive, asbestos would be removed before the tile is replaced.
Buildings built before 1980 likely have material containing asbestos. Under federal law, CPS is required to develop an asbestos management plan for each school and complete an assessment every three years. Illinois Department of Public Health licensed inspectors perform the removal. PBC officials say before abatement is done, they notify the state public health department and then CPS sends a notice to faculty and staff. CPS said principals received asbestos notices to post on bulletin boards.
Some parents and principals have said they didn’t know about the asbestos abatement in their school during the summer renovation project — leaving them miffed with the process.
Jeanette Taylor is the Local School Council president at Mollison elementary on 44th and King Drive.
“Somebody’s got to answer to this,” said Taylor, who has two children at Mollison and whose mother works at the school. “To me, this is hidden. Give parents the respect to say I need to take my kid out or is there somewhere else my kid [could] be served. This is wrong. And then you’re going to throw more kids in the building.”
Mollison is the receiving school for Overton, which has been closed.
“I am a mom of two. I am very conscious that people are concerned about their children’s health and safety as are any construction worker that works on a site or a parent or a teacher. I understand that this is something that would cause concern for folks and I want to make sure they understand this is routine in renovation,” Lavin said.
Jitu Brown is an education organizer with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, which has been adamantly opposed to the school closings.
“It’s a legitimate concern,” Brown said. “Regardless if some of these buildings are done, I think it speaks to a larger problem. And the problem is there’s no accountability from Chicago Public Schools. If there’s an issue with asbestos in public buildings, then there should be a public process in which we know these are the buildings that have an asbestos problem. Here is the plan to address these buildings and here is the timeline.”
Linda Lutton contributed to this report.
Natalie Moore is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her @natalieymoore.
Receiving buildings that are on the 2013 schools abatement list:
1. Brennemann 4251 N. Clarendon
2. Chappell 2135 W. Foster
3. McCutcheon and Branch 4865 N. Sheridan
4. McPherson 4728 N. Wolcott
5. Stockton w/CPC 4420 N. Beacon
6. Chopin 2450 W. Rice
7. De Diego 1313 N. Claremont
8. Morton 431 N. Troy
9. Ryerson 646 N. Lawndale
10. Cather 2908 W. Washington
11. Herbert 2131 W. Monroe
12. Jensen 3030 W. Harrison
13. Otis 525 N. Armour
14. Delano w/CPC 3927 W. Wilcox
15. Gregory 3715 W. Polk
16. Hefferan 4409 W. Wilcox
17. May 512 S. Lavergne
18. Tilton 223 N. Keeler
19. Hughes, C. 4247 W. 15th
20. Cardenas 2345 S. Millard
21. Castellanos 2524 S. Central Park Ave.
22. Beethoven 25 W. 47th Street
23. Mayo 249 E. 37th
24. Mollison 4415 S. King Dr.
25. Pershing West MS 3200 S. Calumet
26. Williams Middle 2710 S. Dearborn
27. Sexton 6020 S. Langley
28. Sherwood 245 W. 57th
29. Dulles 6311 S. Calumet
30. Banneker 6656 S. Normal
31. Bass 1140 W. 66th
32. Goodlow 2040 W. 62nd
33. Harvard 7525 S. Harvard
34. Nicholson 6006 S. Peoria
35. O’Toole 6550 S. Seeley
36. Altgeld 1340 W. 71st
37. Ryder 8716 S. Wallace
38. Lawrence 9928 S. Crandon
39. Cullen 10650 S. Eberhart
40. Curtis 32 E. 115th
41. Haley 11411 S. Eggelston
42. Gompers 12302 S. State
43. Fermi-South Shore 1415 E. 70th