Students Return to California School After Asbestos Scare

Student in a school hallway

A school asbestos abatement project that forced hundreds of California public students to commute nearly 18 miles to other schools is now over.

The younger students at Oak View Elementary School returned to their regular school earlier this month, nearly two years after the discovery of asbestos required Ocean View School District officials to shut down Oak View, Lake View and Hope View elementary schools — displacing more than 1,600 students.

Transformation of the school building, including renovations and asbestos abatement, began a year and a half ago at a cost of nearly $6 million, according to KABC-Channel 7.

“We did a lot of work here,” Gina Clayton-Tarvin, president of the Ocean View School District Board of Trustees, told KABC. “There was abatement of not only asbestos but lead paint and mold.”

School upgrades include new carpeting, flooring and lighting, as well as refreshed landscaping around the perimeter of the building.

Older students at Oak View, about 750 of them, had returned to the school’s portable classrooms after the school shut down because officials found asbestos in ceiling tiles. Students at Hope View returned to their school in September 2015. Lake View remains closed.

“They really endured a lot of hardship having to be moved,” Clayton-Tarvin said.

Mounting Asbestos Abatement Costs

While workers completed asbestos abatement in all three schools last fall, the district took the opportunity to modernize the buildings one at a time as they secured financing.

“It’s open, and it’s beautiful, definitely much more renewed than it was before,” said parent Malissa Hoffman.

The price tag for abatement and other improvements at the three schools will cost the school district a total of $18 million.

While some of the financing came from state emergency funds, the district also leveraged rental property they own in the area.

“We were able to get some loans against that property in order to be able to finance this,” said Dr. Carol Hansen, Ocean View School District superintendent.

Asbestos in Schools Is Part of a Bigger Issue

Ocean View School District’s asbestos woes illustrate an issue that crosses not only state lines, but also national borders.

The profuse use of asbestos in building supplies prior to 1970 leaves students, teachers and staff ripe for exposure to the deadly substance as aging buildings decay.

If undisturbed, the threadlike fibers often present in old ceiling tiles and flooring pose no threat. When disrupted by deterioration or renovation, they become airborne and can be easily inhaled by anyone in the area.

The fibers lodge in the lining of the lungs of their host and can eventually lead to fatal mesothelioma. Although rare, the aggressive, asbestos-related cancer can take 20-50 years to develop. People with mesothelioma usually die within a year of diagnosis.

  1. Carpio, A. (2015, August 23). 2 Orange County schools closed over asbestos concerns will reopen. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-orange-county-schools-20150823-story.html
  2. Ed Markey United States Senator for Massachusetts. (2015, December 7). Senator Markey Releases New Report Detailing Asbestos Hazards in Nation’s Schools. Retrieved from http://www.markey.senate.gov/news/press-releases/senator-markey-releases-new-report-detailing-asbestos-hazards-in-nations-schools
  3. Frere, E. (2016, Mar. 9). Oakview Elementary School in Huntington Beach Reopens After Asbestos Cleanup. Retrieved from http://abc7.com/news/huntington-beach-elementary-school-reopens-after-asbestos-cleanup/1239189/

Beth Swantek has been writing professionally for 30 years. She is a former news reporter and anchor for a CBS affiliate in Michigan and often reported breaking medical and political news. Currently, she teaches media writing and video production at Lawrence Technological University in the Detroit area, as well as working as a freelance writer and producer.

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