Philly school asbestos problem: What’s closed, what’s open and what’s being done

Reference this list to find out where things stand.

Benjamin Franklin High School

Benjamin Franklin High School

Nathaniel Hamilton / WHYY
michaelawinberg-2020-2

Asbestos has become a pervasive problem for the Philadelphia School District this academic year. Several of the city’s school buildings have been temporarily shut down for remediation after officials discovered exposed toxic material — so many that it’s hard to keep track.

Teachers say they’ve lost confidence in the district’s ability to manage the problem, and in January their union sued the School District in January, alleging that Superintendent William Hite repeatedly mishandled problems with asbestos, lead and mold.

For his part, Mayor Jim Kenney defended the superintendent, saying he’s done a “terrific job” considering the condition of the aging structures that house the city’s educational institutions.

Last month, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed making $1 billion available to schools across Pennsylvania to could mitigate asbestos and lead on their premises.

In Philly, the bad news started in August 2019, when it was discovered that the freshly renovated building set up to host Benjamin Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy was full of the toxin. It took until October for the district to admit it needed time to clear the contaminated pipes. Students were temporarily relocated away from Broad and Green while a $13 million cleanup took place.

Since then, officials have discovered damaged asbestos in eight additional school buildings — bringing the total number of schools affected this academic year to 10. Some of the shuttered buildings have reopened, while others have not.

To help people keep track of the situation, we’ve created this list as a reference. We’ll keep it updated throughout the year.

Science Leadership Academy

Address: 1482 Green St. (Spring Garden)
Students: ~500
First closed: SLA has been dealing with asbestos in its newly renovated building since the very beginning of the school year, then was officially vacated from its building in October
Current status: Reopened Feb. 18

Benjamin Franklin High School

Address: 550 N. Broad St. (Spring Garden)
Students: ~500
First closed: Same as the aforementioned SLA, since the schools share a building
Current status: Reopened Feb. 18

T.M. Peirce Elementary School

Address: 2300 W. Cambria St. (Upper North)
Students: ~500
First closed: Late October
Current status: Still closed; students were relocated to a “temporary building

Franklin Learning Center

Address: 616 N. 15th St. (Spring Garden)
Students: ~900
First closed: Dec. 17
Current status: Reopened Jan. 2

Laura H. Carnell Elementary School

Address: 1100 Devereaux Ave. (Northeast)
Students: ~1,000
First closed: Dec. 19
Current status: Reopened Jan. 12

Alexander K. McClure Elementary School

Address: 600 W. Hunting Park Ave. (North)
Students: ~650
First closed: Dec. 19
Current status: Reopened Jan. 29

Francis Hopkinson Elementary School

Address: 4001 L St. (Feltonville)
Students: ~900
First closed: Feb. 3
Current status: Closed indefinitely; K-2 students were relocated to the Little School House on campus grounds, grades 3-5 to Roberto Clemente Middle School, and grades 6-8 to Grover Washington Middle School

Clara Barton Elementary

Address: 4600 Rosehill St. (Feltonville)
Students: ~500
First closed: Feb. 13
Current status: Reopened Feb. 24

James Sullivan Elementary

Address: 5300 Ditman St. (Wissinoming)
Students: ~750
First closed: Feb. 13
Current status: Reopened Feb. 24

C.W. Henry School

Address: 601 Carpenter Ln. (Mount Airy)
Students: ~500
First closed: Feb. 20
Current status: The problem was caused by a leak that damaged a pipe containing asbestos insulation in a classroom; current status is unclear

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