An Alexandria preschool, closed last Friday because asbestos was found in the ceiling of the building it occupied, reopened yesterday in three rented trailers that will serve as temporary classrooms.

"The children are very excited today," said Diane Smalley, the founder of the 5-year-old Creative Play School, which has an enrollment of about 60. "They think that this is another adventure. They're a lot more flexible than we are, thank God."

Asbestos, which produces a dust that can cause cancer and respiratory diseases, was first found in the preschool's leased classrooms in the St. Andrew's United Methodist Church at 845 N. Howard St. 10 days ago, when city inspectors took ceiling samples. Laboratory tests on the samples showed an asbestos content of 30 to 35 percent by weight, a high enough concentration that enviromental health officials recommended closing the school immediately.

Smalley said the school was still getting a special use permit for the trailers, which are at the edge of the church's parking lot. "The city has said they won't do anything until the City Council has a chance to meet on the matter next Tuesday night," Smalley said.

Deputy City Manager Clifford Rusch said "we don't want to be totally rigid. They've shown a good faith effort to protect the kids."

Smalley said yesterday that a few parents had withdrawn their children from school as a result of the asbestos crisis, but that "by and large they have been marvelous. We've had a lot of support."

School officials have been working around the clock to move all the classroom paraphernalia and construct wooden steps to the trailers. Repairs to the church ceilings are expected to take about a month.

Earlier this week, residents of the Essex House, a high-rise apartment building at 375 S. Reynolds St. in Alexandria, were informed that asbestos had been found in their building as well.