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The city Department of Education (DOE) is under fire for last week’s incident exposing Lafayette High School students and staffers to asbestos.
“This is something that shouldn’t happen,” said Richard Mangone, a social studies teacher at Lafayette, located at 2630 Benson Avenue in Bensonhurst.
“This is a big problem with the potential for serious repercussions. The Department of Education must take every step necessary to ensure the safety of its students,” asserted City Councilmember Domenic Recchia.
On Thursday evening, December 3, DOE-hired contractors were removing pipes in Lafayette’s basement when they also removed asbestos. The debris, which can cause lung disease, were moved through the basement. A custodian discovered the debris at 8 a.m. the following morning but School Construction Authority (SCA) officials didn’t arrive at the school until 2 p.m., Recchia said.
During this time, the school day proceeded as normal, with students having lunch in the cafeteria, which is located in the basement.
Recchia has sent a letter to the DOE criticizing the SCA’s response to the incident.
“I am incredibly disturbed that even though a custodian reported dust and debris at 8 a.m. on Friday, School Construction Authority officials did not arrive until 2 p.m. That is not an acceptable response time to a serious health hazard,” he wrote.
Weekend tutoring sessions and an SAT exam scheduled for Saturday were cancelled so the school could be cleaned, according to a source at Lafayette, which is now home to several small schools.
The DOE issued a statement noting, “Indoor air quality tests indicate that Lafayette High School is safe, and classes are proceeding as scheduled. We’re sending a letter to families in the Lafayette community to explain why the SAT was cancelled and to inform them of the new test date. We are reviewing last week’s incident to ensure that our contractors are in full compliance with regulations, and we will take disciplinary action as needed.”
The SAT has been rescheduled for December 19th and students will not have to pay a fee, a DOE source noted.
On Monday, December 7th, the DOE, SCA and United Federation of Teachers (UFT) met with Lafayette’s teachers and administrators to discuss the incident. Mangone said the meeting was productive.
“I’m glad that the Department of Education and School Construction Authority met with all the members of the school campus and the United Federation of Teachers to ensure that this type of problem will not happen again,” Mangone said.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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