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October 18, 2018

3 months later, O.C. school closed by asbestos scare to reopen

Students displaced from a Huntington Beach grade school will begin returning to campus on Tuesday, more than three months after three schools were closed because of an asbestos scare.

Many of the students who attended the three campuses have been bused to schools elsewhere in Orange County at a cost of $50,000 a week while school officials struggled to deal with the asbestos concerns.

In all, the closures displaced more than 1,600 students.

On Tuesday, students in grades 3 through 5 will return to Oak View Elementary and be reunited with classmates in portable buildings.

Two other campuses, Lake View and Hope View elementary, remained closed.

Since Oak View was closed in October, more than 600 Oak View students, including kindergartners, have been attending classes at Village View Elementary, Oak View Preschool, Pleasant View School – all in the Ocean View district – and Walter Knott Elementary in Buena Park.

The district is working on a timeline for asbestos cleanup at Oak View. The potentially hazardous mineral fiber was discovered at some schools during an 11-campus modernization project that began in July.

When the schools were built decades ago, asbestos was used as fireproofing on metal beams above the ceilings. Over time, asbestos dust began to fall from the beams and settle on classroom ceiling tiles, district records show.

Rising costs caused the district board of trustees to vote last month to delay asbestos removal and modernization construction at Oak View.

According to district documents, air samples taken at Oak View in October did not contain asbestos levels above standards set in the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, which regulates how much asbestos can be present in public buildings like schools.

At a recent board meeting, several parents of Oak View students said they were worried about their children falling behind academically while attending temporary schools.

The children lack access to computers at Knott Elementary and can’t practice for automated Common Core tests like their peers can, parents said.

Oak View serves a large number of English as a Second Language students and low-income families, many of whom receive free or reduced-price meals at school, according to California Department of Education data. The relocations have divided siblings and disrupted families, some of whom count on social and family services available at Oak View, teachers told the school board last month.

Special-education teacher Rhonda King said one of her second-graders was accustomed to attending Oak View with his sister, a third-grader. Now he is at Village View in Huntington Beach while his sister is bused to Buena Park.

“He tells me he misses his sister,” King said. “That’s not just one family, it’s a lot of families.”

Nicole.Shine@latimes.com

For more education news, follow @NicoleKShine on Twitter

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

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3 months later, O.C. school closed by asbestos scare to reopen

Asbestos scare: 1,300 O.C. students now without a school

A beleaguered Huntington Beach school district has now closed three of its campuses because of an asbestos scare, leaving 1,300 students without a school to attend.

The three grade schools have been closed since last Monday when parents learned that their children could have been exposed to potentially carcinogenic asbestos while the Ocean View School District worked to modernize school sites.

Since then, hundreds of parents have been uncertain when and where their children would return to the classroom.

The school district is losing about $63,000 a day in state funds because students cannot attend class.

About 100 families have requested that their children be transferred to schools in other districts.

“There’s no way I can trust my son is going to be safe there anymore,” said parent Lily Coffin, who said she hoped to move her son to the neighboring Huntington Beach City School District.

District trustees voted during a special meeting last week to close Lake View, Hope View and Oak View elementary schools for the week, while classrooms were cleaned and tested to make sure they were free of potentially carcinogenic asbestos dust. Lake View was later closed indefinitely, and now the district has decided to keep the other two schools closed indefinitely as well.

“Recently, we received information from our consultants and experts that it is not in the best interest of students and staff to reopen these three schools until we obtain additional information,” said Gustavo Balderas, Ocean View’s superintendent.

While the district has determined it can move students from Lake View to other campuses in the district, it’s unclear what will happen with the 1,300 students from the other campuses.

Ocean View officials have said they were aware that asbestos has been in their schools for decades. However, parents became upset when they learned the district may have been removing the material as part of a large-scale modernization project while students were present.

Ongoing testing revealed there was asbestos in two classrooms at Lake View, while a single asbestos fiber was found in a classroom at Hope View. Test results from Oak View were inconclusive, officials said.

The district said it will test for asbestos during the next several weeks at all 11 schools in the district. The cost of the tests is about $700,000, said Assistant Supt. Roni Ellis.

Construction has been suspended at every school until the summer and the district, along with Cal/OSHA, is investigating whether contractors continued to remove asbestos while students were in classrooms, which would violate state law.

Ocean View officials could not yet provide an estimate of the number of families who have applied for transfers.

The loss of state funds and the cost of asbestos removal could leave the district in financial trouble. Officials said they may end up asking the state to help with costs.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that until the 1970s was widely used in building products and insulation materials. The fibers can be released into the air during demolition work, repairs and remodeling, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

When Lake View, Oak View and Hope View schools were built decades ago, asbestos was used as fireproofing on metal beams above the ceiling. Over time, the dust began to fall from the beams and settle on top of classroom ceiling tiles, district records show.

Though coming into contact with asbestos that hasn’t been disturbed isn’t harmful, it becomes a hazard when the dust becomes airborne, said Steven Viani, a registered civil engineer and engineering contractor with experience in asbestos and other hazardous materials.

Inhaling high levels of the dust can increase the risk of lung disease that isn’t detected until years later, including a type of cancer called mesothelioma, experts say.

Teachers have expressed concern that they weren’t notified about the asbestos above the tiles and said the district should have placed signs restricting access to limit the risk of the dust becoming airborne.

hannah.fry@latimes.com
Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

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Asbestos scare: 1,300 O.C. students now without a school

Asbestos scare: Huntington Beach elementary school closed indefinitely

An asbestos scare has forced the indefinite closure of a Huntington Beach grade school and an examination of every campus in the district, leaving parents frustrated and some unsure where their children will go to school.

School officials estimated that Lake View Elementary will be closed five to 10 weeks as asbestos is removed from classrooms.

The campus is one of three schools in the Ocean View School District that had been closed this week because of asbestos concerns. District Supt. Gustavo Balderas’ decision to close Lake View indefinitely comes on the heels of test results that showed widespread asbestos in several classrooms.

Parents of Lake View students said they are waiting for the district to come up with an alternate school site for their children.

“The district is currently drafting its plan going forward,” Ocean View spokesman Bruce Auld wrote in an email Thursday. He said it would likely be posted on the district’s website and Facebook account sometime late Friday.

The district declined to state how many Lake View classrooms have been affected by the asbestos, but officials said they would notify teachers.

Lake View Elementary has a large number of English as a Second Language students and low-income families, many of whom receive free or reduced-price meals at school, according to data collected by the California Department of Education.

District trustees voted during a special meeting Tuesday night to close Lake View, Hope View and Oak View elementary schools for the week, while classrooms could be cleaned and tested to make sure they were free of potentially carcinogenic asbestos dust. Only Lake View has been indefinitely closed.

Ocean View officials have said they were aware that asbestos has been in their schools for decades. However, parents became upset when they learned the district may have been removing the material as part of a large-scale modernization project while students were present.

Parent Michelle Morales has kept her two children home from school since news of the asbestos issue broke last week.

“I’m not against modernization,” she said. “I’m against the way it was handled. The district isn’t giving us a whole lot of answers.”

In response to mounting concerns from parents, the district hired Sierra Environmental Consulting to test the air and surfaces at Oak View, Lake View and Hope View for asbestos last weekend.

Of the 56 wipe samples collected at Hope View, one sample taken in Classroom 6 contained a single asbestos fiber. It was collected under a tile that appeared to have been drilled into in order to run television wires into the classroom, said Cary Ruben, a certified industrial hygienist.

Test results from Oak View came back inconclusive, officials said.

The district said it will test for asbestos during the next several weeks at all 11 schools in the district where construction has taken place.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that until the 1970s was widely used in building products and insulation materials. The fibers can be released into the air during demolition work, repairs and remodeling, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

When Lake View, Oak View and Hope View schools were built decades ago, asbestos was used as fireproofing on metal beams above the ceiling. Over time, the dust began to fall from the beams and settle on top of classroom ceiling tiles, district records show.

Though coming into contact with asbestos that hasn’t been disturbed isn’t harmful, it becomes a hazard when the dust becomes airborne, said Steven Viani, a registered civil engineer and engineering contractor with experience in asbestos and other hazardous materials.

“The classical theory is pretty much that a single asbestos fiber is enough to cause harm,” Viani said. “There’s really no safe level of exposure.”

Teachers have expressed concern that they weren’t notified about the asbestos above the tiles and said the district should have placed signs restricting access to limit the risk of the dust becoming airborne.

Hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

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Asbestos scare: Huntington Beach elementary school closed indefinitely