January 23, 2019

Moon Area parents voice concerns about asbestos removal

Some parents in the Moon Area School District are concerned about the district’s plan to remove asbestos from two elementary schools during the nine-day spring break instead of over summer vacation.

About 20 parents attended two sessions Tuesday to discuss the removal of asbestos-containing vinyl floor tiles as part of $26.2 million in improvements planned at Allard and Brooks elementary schools.

The asbestos removal is scheduled to begin the evening of March 27 and be completed by April 2 to allow time for Allegheny County to review the project and for the district to install flooring and return furniture to rooms. The district’s spring break is March 28-April 5.

Will Nicastro, department manager with Professional Services Industries Inc. of Pittsburgh, said the floor tiling is “non-friable,” meaning it is resistant to crushing or pulverizing by hand, and it should be easily pried from the floor.

Testing and multiple cleaning processes will be used throughout each phase of the removal project, he said.

Some parents said they felt reassured after hearing the presentation, while others remained adamant that the project should be done over summer break, with the start of the 2015-16 school year delayed by one week.

School directors Jerry Testa and Michael Hauser were the only board members who attended either of the Tuesday sessions. Mr. Testa said he would prefer to delay the start of the 2015-16 school year.

“Based on what I heard tonight, I am even less comfortable than when I voted last Monday,” Mr. Testa said, referring to the Feb. 9 board meeting where directors voted 7-2 to approve plans that included the bidding of the asbestos projects. He and Mr. Hauser were the two dissenters.

It may be less expensive for the district to have the work done over spring break because firms are busy in June with summer construction projects, said Joe Kuchnicki, principal contractor with PSI.

PSI would prefer to do abatement work while students are not in building, he said, although local districts, including Montour and Mt. Lebanon, have done this type of abatement while students are in the building by closing off sections of the school from use. Doug Finke, PSI project manager, said other districts, such as North Hills, have conducted this type of abatement during weekends.

Some were concerned the time frame was too short for the work.

“I don’t want it done helter skelter,” said Basel Masry, an Allard parent. “By rushing it, you are setting it up for a fail.”

Mr. Kuchnicki called the timeline “somewhat of an aggressive schedule, but it is meet-able.”

At the Brooks session, where parents also brought up that concern, superintendent Curt Baker said, “The risk level is exceptionally low. There is no reason to put it off.”

PSI will not be the firm removing the asbestos as indicated during the Feb. 9 board meeting. It will monitor the contractors that are hired to complete the projects. Air quality testing will be completed by PSI throughout the abatement process. On-site tests will be performed before and during the project, including areas outside of the sealed work areas. Final air quality readings will be completed at the company’s main laboratory in Pittsburgh.

Open bidding on the project is to end March 2. The school board is scheduled to vote to select the firm or firms on March 9.

Further asbestos abatement, including insulation and boiler room work at Brooks and window work at Allard, will be completed during the summer. The window work will be done in conjunction with the installation of new windows.

Abatement also is expected to occur during the summer at R. Hyde Elementary in preparation for transforming it into a district learning center.

Sonja Reis, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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Moon Area parents voice concerns about asbestos removal