March 26, 2019

Uxbridge Middle School to be closed a second day for asbestos cleanup

UXBRIDGE — McCloskey Middle School will be closed for a second day Wednesday as a ceiling-to-floor cleaning is completed by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. School officials said results from air-quality tests Monday were acceptable, however.

School officials sent parents an email and phone message Monday night saying the middle school, which houses Grades 6, 7 and 8, would be closed Tuesday after environmental tests showed that flooring material removed over the summer contained asbestos.

Superintendent of Schools Kevin M. Carney said in an interview that he learned at 3:45 p.m. Monday that asbestos was present in tiles that had been found last week in a Dumpster behind the school. The tiles came from work to replace carpets in three classrooms over the summer.

He said he was surprised that tiles were underneath the carpets, since most carpets in the district lay on top of concrete or wood.

Mr. Carney sent parents a second email Tuesday afternoon informing them that the pre-cleaning air-quality tests done Monday night were favorable, meaning that exposure to airborne asbestos particles was below the exposure limits set by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“That’s a great, great sign,” Mr. Carney said.

He said in the email that the decision to keep the school closed a second day, while the building was being thoroughly cleaned, was made to ensure the safety of students and staff and to adhere to regulations set by the Department of Labor Standards and the Department of Environmental Protection.

Second and final test results were expected by the end of Wednesday.

Asbestos includes fibrous minerals that have been used for insulation and fireproofing, wallboard, flooring, brakes, textiles and other commercial products. Tiny amounts of asbestos are generally present in the air. But if asbestos-containing material is handled and microscopic fiber particles separate, they can be inhaled.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, long-term exposure to asbestos may increase the risk of lung disorders, including cancer. The risk is particularly increased for smokers or people with pre-existing lung disease.

In 1999, the Virginia A. Blanchard School in North Uxbridge, which had been an early childhood education center, was closed because of extensive asbestos, among other building problems.

The McCloskey Middle School, built in 1937, served as Uxbridge High School until the new high school was built off Quaker Highway and opened in 2012.

“We’re not sure how they didn’t pick up the presence of asbestos previously,” said one parent of a sixth-grade student, who asked that her name not be printed to protect her daughter. “The presence of asbestos is alarming.”

“There’s asbestos material in any old building,” Mr. Carney said. “It’s how well it’s contained. We will proceed cautiously for sure.”

Mr. Carney said once the immediate situation is dealt with, he wanted to find out when the building workers knew there were tiles under the carpet and whether they took the necessary precautions.

“We’re so thankful for the patience of people,” Mr. Carney said. “I know it’s disruptive.”

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Uxbridge Middle School to be closed a second day for asbestos cleanup

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