Somerville

Somerville schools end summer program early amid parents' asbestos concerns

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Somerville Public Schools has ended its summer programming early after construction in one of its buildings led to concerns of asbestos from program staff and parents.

In a written statement that went out to parents on Friday, Somerville school district says it has cancelled the last three days of the summer program to also lessen the disruption caused by the construction work currently underway at the Edgerly Education Center.

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Students from Winter Hill Community Innovation School are expected to be housed at Edgerly for the upcoming academic year while work continues to be done inside their school. Winter Hill closed earlier this year after a piece of concrete fell and the building was deemed unsafe.

"In the decision to move Winter Hill students to Edgerly, we knew that roofing, masonry, and window caulking needed to be improved to keep the building watertight," Somerville Schools said in a written statement. "There is non-friable asbestos in the window caulking at Edgerly."

Non-friable asbestos is not considered a health hazard unless it is improperly disturbed, according to the school district. However, the work still sparked concerns from parents and staff.

"We understand that the required signage, protective gear for crews, and containment structures used while conducting this work can be unsettling, and we should have informed staff and families in advance of the safety protocols in place," the district wrote.

The district said the early closure will also let the construction work advance more quickly.

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"I’m more bothered by the lack of communication and transparency," school parent and PTA president Uma Murugan said. "They could’ve just told us that the abatement was starting on such and such date before it actually started because they should’ve known that.

"In June, the City initiated an additional building assessment of the Winter Hill Community Innovation School," a city spokesperson said in a statement Monday. "Today, our consultant informed the City, who immediately informed Somerville Public Schools, of the unexpected presence of asbestos in material not typically found to contain asbestos. The City closed the building, which has not been currently holding classes, and it will remain closed to all until further notice as we work to investigate the findings and remediate the material. We will continue to keep our staff, families, and community updated."

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