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December 19, 2018

Orange County school, closed because of asbestos, is back in session

School is in session again at an Orange County school that was closed for months after asbestos was discovered.

Oak View Elementary was one of three campuses closed when the hazardous mineral fiber was discovered during an 11-campus modernization project in July.

The closures displaced more than 1,600 students, who were being bused to eight other campuses in four school districts at a cost of $50,000 a week.

Most students returned to Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Tuesday. Lake View and Hope View elementary schools remain closed.

Oak View students in grades 3 through 5 returned to their original classrooms in portable buildings. Second-graders are being taught in portable buildings that had been used for teacher meetings and after-school programs.

First-graders will attend Sun View Elementary School and kindergartners will remain at Pleasant View School, both in Huntington Beach.

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.

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 including schools.

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

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Orange County school, closed because of asbestos, is back in session

Possible asbestos exposure investigated at Huntington Beach schools

Officials have pledged to test all school classrooms in Huntington Beach for asbestos after concerns were raised that construction work may have exposed students on three campuses to the dangerous material.

Two Huntington Beach elementary school campuses remained closed Tuesday for the testing, which officials said they plan to carry out at all 11 schools, mostly on the weekends.

The Ocean View School District has been investigating whether contractors continued to remove asbestos from facilities after the school year began in September, possibly putting students at three elementary school campuses — Hope View, Oak View and Lake View — in contact with dust.

Parents were notified last week that testing would take place over the weekend and that classes would be canceled Monday and Tuesday, the Huntington Beach Independent reported.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that until the 1970s was used in building products and insulation materials. Inhaling high levels of asbestos fibers — which can be released into the air during construction — can increase the risk of lung disease, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Parents became aware of the asbestos issue last month when district trustee John Briscoe filed a complaint with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health after learning the material was being removed from several district schools during a modernization effort that began in July.

Cal/OSHA began its own investigation last week, officials said.

“In our abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily close as we wait for the additional test results to be completed and that they have confirmed that no asbestos is present and that there is no risk,” Hope View Principal Carrie Haskin wrote in a letter to parents.

No other schools are scheduled to be closed for testing.

Though the district maintains that the schools are safe for students, more than 100 people, mostly parents and teachers, attended a community meeting last week to voice their concerns.

“I have been assured by the hired professional architects, contractors, abatement contractors, construction management and environmental testing companies that the schools are safe,” Supt. Gustavo Balderas wrote in a letter to the community. “I have been provided closure reports showing no airborne asbestos after [it] was abated.”

The district is set to host a special board meeting at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday at the Marine View Middle School gym, 5682 Tilburg Drive, to discuss the school closures.

Hannah Fry writes for Times Community News.

Hannah Fry can be reached at hannah.fry@latimes.com or on Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

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Possible asbestos exposure investigated at Huntington Beach schools