A Kansas school district says they’ve been working hard to remove a little bit of asbestos each year from their aging schools, but apparently their work didn’t stop asbestos “snow” from floating down onto students at the Yates Center Elementary and Middle Schools earlier this week.
Now, the students will start their Christmas vacation early and maintenance crews will need to work overtime to remove the hazardous asbestos before school resumes in early January.
Something started…falling from the ceiling to the floor, so they put [up] caution signs,” Caleb Kobel, a fifth grader at the school, told KWCH-TV in Wichita, Kansas. “We were feeling kind of scared, and like everyone was saying what’s happening? What is that stuff?”
When staff noticed the asbestos debris coming loose in the multi-purpose room and the white powdery substance on the floor, they recognized the danger and began to move the children out of harm’s way.
Eventually, they cleared the school and brought all the elementary and middle school students over to the nearby high school.
District Superintendent Greg Brown said they never expected something like this to happen. He noted that asbestos abatement has continued through the years but didn’t think the situation was so serious that loose asbestos would start falling from the ceiling.
Yet, this is nothing new for the Yates Center schools.
“I’m a little uneasy about it right now,” said Caleb’s mom, Bonnie Stoldt. “We had an incident about a year and a half ago with the same thing, so I’m just really hoping that it gets taken care of this time.”
Brown objected to Stoldt’s portrayal of the problem, saying that the previous incident was an isolated one and that it was caused when a ball hit the ceiling and knocked loose some of the asbestos tiles. Still, he didn’t seem worried about the most recent scenario.
“This time I think they handled it properly,” he added, “They evacuated the kids.”
Still, asbestos in schools remains a concern for tens of thousands of parents whose kids attend aging U.S. schools where asbestos was used as insulation, pipe wrapping, in tiles, and for other purposes as well.
Basically, any school prior built prior to about 1980 probably contains asbestos materials of some sort and it is up to each district to monitor and maintain that asbestos in accordance with EPA rules.
Districts are required to regularly inspect their schools and to make sure any asbestos is in good condition or is encased so as not to harm those who work in or attend the school.
In addition, they are to have management plans in place in case of an asbestos emergency and at least one staff member at each school must be briefed on how to handle such an emergency.