The elementary portion of Public School 143 in Queens, New York, may be quieter for the near future.
Five kindergarten classes in the neighborhood of Corona were forced to leave the school because asbestos was discovered in September. Approximately 100 students were relocated to another nearby school as the city conducts repairs on the contaminated school.
Asbestos, a toxic mineral that can lead to deadly diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma, is often found in older insulation setups, roofing materials, ceiling tiles and related products.
Anger in the Community
Parents and teachers both were not happy with the way that the Department of Education handled the situation.
Angelica Salgado, a parent of one of the kindergarten students, said that she is reluctant to put her daughter back in the annexed school. She continued by questioning how she can be sure that the school will be safe even after it is repaired.
The elementary school is an annex of a larger school in Queens. The area is compromised of many immigrant families, primarily Latinos. This factor left the door open for criticism by some in the community who felt this would not have happened to children in more affluent schools.
One teacher anonymously chimed in by saying that she didn’t believe the city would place children from a wealthier neighborhood back into an asbestos-contaminated building.
“It’s shameful that the Department of Education (DOE) thinks it’s good enough for a child to go in there,” she said. “It’s just awful.”
An official from the DOE said that the air tests taken from the annex didn’t detect asbestos, but as a precaution, the children and staff would be relocated while the removal and repairs were taking place.
This process of asbestos removal, known as asbestos abatement, is performed by professionals who are certified to deal with the dangerous material.
This incident may be reminiscent of other recent instances where asbestos was found in schools and universities across the country. Because of the rampant use of asbestos up until the 1970s, many older buildings and structures still contain the toxic mineral.
As the latency period for asbestos can be between 20-50 years, the harmful effects of it may not be noticeable immediately.