PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Asbestos is still keeping about 1,000 Philadelphia students out of class. Ben Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy have now been closed for a week.
On Monday, the school district held two town hall meetings for parents and students.
Parents are frustrated and angry. Even teachers told school district administrators if this crisis isn’t handled appropriately, there should be resignations.
It was standing-room only inside the school district headquarters and one after the other, parents blasted the district for its handling of the discovery of asbestos inside Benjamin Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy in the city’s Spring Garden section.
“First of all, we have to think about the health issue. There’s a major health issue, it’s overwhelming,” a parent told CBS3. “The second thing is safety issues, you can’t have an education if you don’t have either one of those.”
The campus is now closed indefinitely while mitigation specialists address the asbestos. The closure comes after a multi-million dollar construction project revealed unacceptable levels of asbestos.
“We dramatically underestimated the time that it would take to do a major renovation,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Hite said.
Alternate locations have been identified for students, they include Strawberry Mansion and South Philadelphia High Schools.
“I swear I will transfer my children to a different school before I even send them there,” parent Charlotte Williams said.
“The meeting was really overwhelming, we really didn’t get many answers,” a parent told CBS3. “There were great questions asked, none of them were really answered. Someone said, ‘What are we going to do Thursday?’ and we never got an answer to that. My son is not going to the alternate schools they put out there. So I don’t know where my son is going to go.”
Meanwhile, the district has come under intense pressure and criticism for the number of times students have been out of the classroom as a result of the revelation of dangerous materials in the school building but also for its communication with parents.
Hite struck an apologetic tone on Monday morning, taking responsibility for all of the district’s 200,000-plus students. But that is not good enough for some parents.
“You have failed us,” one student said.
One mother even demanded a change in leadership.
“Dr. Hite, you are totally responsible for this because you are the head of the school district. You need to be held accountable for this. You need to resign,” she said.
Hite responded, “Well I got news, I’m not resigning. And the other thing is, I’m going to fix this. I’m going to fix this problem.”
Brian Lynch, a Ben Franklin special education compliance monitor, told administrators if reasonable solutions weren’t reached, he expects resignations.
“Trust has been breached, trust has been lost,” Lynch said. “I don’t want to move forward until you repair and at least acknowledge that trust has been breached.”
The earliest these students will return to alternate classrooms is Thursday. Staff estimate it could be at least another week before a final plan is in place.
Teachers on Monday were handing out breakfast and lunch to the children.
Students and parents can find the latest from the school district here.
CBS3’s Joe Holden and Greg Argos contributed to this report.