Hopkinson school in Juniata closed indefinitely for more asbestos abatement

Meeting to form a facilities' "rapid response team" of unionized laborers took place on Thursday.

PFT president Jerry Jordan speaks at a news conference outside Hopkinson Elementary School, which is temporarily closed. (Courtesy of Lynn Oseguera)

PFT president Jerry Jordan speaks at a news conference outside Hopkinson Elementary School, which is temporarily closed. (Courtesy of Lynn Oseguera)

This article originally appeared on The Notebook.

Hopkinson Elementary School in Juniata will remain closed for the indefinite future so environmental cleanup can take place at the school, district officials said Friday.

In addition to asbestos abatement, lead stabilization work is also ongoing, said District spokeswoman Monica Lewis.

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She said that while test results for loose asbestos have come back as “undetectable,” there is still work that needs to be completed.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has a different take on school conditions and has argued that the District’s testing was not stringent enough. It called the need for further asbestos remediation at the school “urgent” due to what it says is continuing danger to students and staff from a ceiling tile replacement project completed over the summer that was not disclosed to the union and staff and did not include enough care to contain asbestos dust.

Lewis said there was no estimate on how long the school might remain closed.

PFT had recommended the continued closure and called it “an absolutely commendable decision and one borne out of the relentless advocacy of the PFT and all of our members” in a statement from President Jerry Jordan. “Our recommendations are always given based on facts, science, and our deep commitment to protecting the health and safety of our members and the students we serve.”

The union proposed on Wednesday a “rapid response team” that would enlist unionized laborers to increase capacity for dealing with potentially dangerous school conditions. The proposal was made at a press conference in front of the school that included the American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

Hite immediately responded to the offer, and the meeting took place the next day. In his statement, Jordan called the meeting with District and labor leaders “productive.”

“The District’s response to our proposed rapid response team is very encouraging, and I appreciate [interim chief of facilities and capital projects] Jim Creedon’s leadership in convening this group and looking for creative solutions to this problem.” 

The tone of potential cooperation is a marked change from the District and PFT’s interactions over the asbestos crisis, which has so far closed eight schools this year. PFT has sued the District over its response, calling it “negligent” and seeking court intervention to certify that school buildings are safe for occupancy.

Jordan characterized the decision to close the 875-student school as “an enormous win for the children and staff.”

Hopkinson students are being bused to locations elsewhere. Kindergarten through 2nd graders are located in the Little School House; 3rd through 5th graders are at Roberto Clemente Middle School, and 6th through 8th graders are at Grover Washington.

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