A plan to remove all asbestos from Arlington schools was criticized last night by School Board members and representatives of parent and teacher groups who claimed it is vague and premature.
The plan, designed by Thomas Weber, director of facilities and operations, calls for budgeting $200,000 annually for at least five years to remove asbestos from 33 school and administration buildings. The material, once widely used as insulation, can emit microscopic particles when it deteriorates that have been found to cause cancer and other diseases.
School Board members said that while the proposal was "a step in the right direction," they were not convinced that all the asbestos in the schools needs to be removed or that $200,000 a year is the right amount to spend on the task. "I'm a little disappointed that this is so nebulous," said board member Dorothy H. Stambaugh.
They urged that before a more detailed plan is made all the asbestos in county schools should be identified.
Representatives of the Arlington Education Association and the County Council of PTAs also encouraged administrators to design a more detailed plan that would include specific dates for removing the asbestos. "Teachers should be able to work in an asbestos-free environment," said AEA Executive Director Marjorie McCreery.
The plan was designed in response to mounting concern and criticism from parents and teachers who have claimed at recent school board meetings that officials were not acting swiftly enough to remove asbestos hazards.
School officials have maintained that all the asbestos in county school buildings is encapsulated and does not pose a health hazard.
Karl VanNewkirk, vice president of the PTA council, said not all asbestos in the schools is safely encased. He said he and other PTA members toured Randolph Elementary School Wednesday night and discovered several areas of exposed asbestos. "There was some encapsulation that appeared not to have been properly done," he said.
School Board members asked for more details on the cost of removal from specific areas.
Weber said private contractors are now checking all schools for asbestos and could provide those figures in three to four weeks.
VanNewkirk said he and other PTA members planned to inspect other schools for asbestos on their own. School officials "are moving, and that's good," he said after the meeting. "But I was disappointed that they didn't emphasize the encapsulation of the areas that are not encapsulated."
School board members agreed to discuss the issue with contractors once they have finished inspecting all schools. "I know this is a very controversial issue. We're on target but we haven't hit the bull's-eye," said board member Frank K. Wilson.