PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Two Philadelphia schools will remain shut down for an unknown amount of time due to asbestos concerns. Students of Benjamin Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy will be relocated.
Students will be off again on Monday and Tuesday. All schools are closed Wednesday for Yom Kippur, and on Thursday, students of the schools will be relocated.
“There will be no return to that facility until construction is at a point that it is safe for children to return,” Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite said. “It’s been frustrating and it’s created a lot of anxiety for students and their parents.”
A walk-through of the building shared by the two schools led to the uncovering of asbestos in ductwork in the boiler room last week. Staff and students have not had access to the building since last Friday.
“I looked on the school district website and I did some research to see if there would be school or not,” Benjamin Franklin freshman Abdellah Krubs said.
Abdellah is torn about this unplanned week of vacation.
“I’m half-and-half. I have to catch up on some things. I’m excited being a freshman as well,” Abdellah said.
“I’m kind of upset because we’ve been here for a couple of weeks now,” Douglas Oliver, a student, said. “We’re already in a new building and thought we had something to look forward to. Now we’re hearing another thing and another thing that’s going on with the school after the construction. And now this. So it’s a bit frustrating.”
On Wednesday, 12 additional samples from the building were submitted for lab testing.
“This extended closure will enable abatement and retesting to happen in the SLA Common Area. The boiler room, which is located on an unoccupied sub-basement floor, will be sealed off from the rest of the building and abatement in that area will also begin,” said School District of Philadelphia COO Danielle Floyd.
Several teachers who did not want to be identified say they fear more asbestos will be uncovered.
Others say the issue with asbestos has been going on well over a year.
“The concerns from the Ben Franklin side have been going on for 18 months. This is not new for us,” Ben Franklin High School teacher Keith Pretlow said. “The hard part is for a lot of these students, we’re the only constant and when you’re taking that from them, they’re left up to their own vices. Who knows what they could be getting into.”
Pretlow believes the decision to close the school is the right one in light of the health and safety risks for all those in the building.
But he wants to make sure the district relocates staff and students to adequate facilities.
“If you have to move us, move us,” he said. “But don’t put us in a place where we can’t educate our students to the best of our abilities.”
Breakfast and lunch will be handed out to students in need on Monday and Tuesday.
Two town halls are set for impacted parents on Monday — 9 a.m. for Ben Franklin High School and 5:30 p.m. for Science Leadership Academy.
Asbestos remediation is a complicated matter so it’s unclear what the complete timeline for the building is at this time.
CBS3’s Alexandria Hoff and Greg Argos contributed to this report.