TEUTOPOLIS — Asbestos abatement is due to start early next week at Teutopolis High School, causing concern among some parents that it’s being done while students are in school.
A petition opposing the start of abatement this semester has 424 signatures. Parents say they’ll submit it to the school board on Monday at its meeting, which starts at 6 p.m.
The project targets the oldest building on the campus, a 1929 structure. Teutopolis Unit 50 sent a letter to parents last month regarding the project.
Parents Tina and Jake Thompson said they received the letter from the district on Dec. 16 addressing the asbestos abatement project and the final board meeting of the year was scheduled for Dec. 18.
“With only a few days to get answers, some concerned parents sprang into action,” Jake Thompson said.
At the meeting, the board was presented with questions from concerned parents. Some of the topics included whether there is an emergency action plan, air quality and why the work is being done while school is in session.
Those questions were presented at a pre-construction meeting and delivered back as a response from the district. According to a news release, the asbestos work is the first order of work that will occur this year to allow for the timely demolition and rebuilding of the older parts of the school. The project is expected to last six months.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, asbestos is a mineral fiber that occurs in rock and soil.
“Because of its fiber strength and heat resistance, asbestos has been used in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire retardant,” says the agency’s website.
The site says that it is used in a wide range of manufactured goods, mostly in building materials such as roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper products and asbestos cement products, friction products including automobile clutch, brake and transmission parts, packaging, gaskets and coatings.
Glen Garner, Environmental Engineer with the Lead and Asbestos compliance program at the Illinois Department of Public Health, said that the fiber has been used in construction for many years and for some time was perceived as a “miracle mineral” before it was found to be cancer causing.
“Schools are not required to remove it, but they are required to manage and maintain it,” he said.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, workers who manage or abate asbestos in schools, commercial or public buildings must be trained and licensed. Contractors are responsible for conducting asbestos abatement projects and they must have insurance .
Garner said asbestos is not a hazard until it becomes airborne.
Jake and Tina Thompson are concerned because their child is in band. The band room is located in the middle of the 1929 structure.
“We’ve been told that it’s not feasible to move the band,” Jake Thompson said. “We’ve been told by the district that there is nowhere to move them.”
During an informational meeting on Monday, parents were told that there will be no work done above the band room, but there will be work done below it. Jake Thompson said the district has made arrangements to move the study hall to the library.
“The plan that the contractor will follow will be enforced by an IDPH licensed third-party representative acting on behalf of the district, the architect, and the Department of Public Health,” Deb Philpot, the district’s interim superintendent, said in the news release. “And it’s enforcement will keep our buildings clean and safe for our community and children.”
Philpot also said the Asbestos Abatement Plan for 2020 was designed by an Illinois Licensed Professional Engineer, publicly bid out per the Illinois Complied Statutes and awarded to a contractor licensed by the Illinois Department of Public Health to perform work of this nature in private and public schools in Illinois.