So you figure that things change, but certain things never change including the fact that Broward County Schools still have portable classrooms that contain asbestos. This was brought to our attention back on June 10 when we discovered that a portable classroom at Taravella High School was sealed,  and a sign had been  placed on it  indicating a Cancer Hazard.  It turns out that all last week another portable classroom at Taravella High School  was closed, because of the same problem….Asbestos.

Sunday June 11,2000 : Trailer closed. Notice plastic wrap at bottom of exterior wall, and  special ventilation system installed in doorway.

In the past, the school board spokesman had indicated to the media that the Asbestos in the classroom was no big deal and they only close the classrooms as a precaution.  If it is no big deal then why all of the signs and why all of the special attention? According to the Federal Government, (Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) of 1986), asbestos is a big deal and must be treated as such. It is our belief that the asbestos issue is being swept under the rug.  To condemn all the portable classrooms would cost the school board millions of dollars.  This is not about safety, this is about money!

The asbestos problem should be of  concern to each and every parent that is sending their children to the county schools.  The mobile classroom is quite common and is used for portable classrooms at the elementary, middle school and high school.  Maintenance personnel indicated to us that  the portables  do contain vinyl asbestos tiles that have been covered up with carpeting, and others have the tile completely exposed, depending on when they were constructed.  It is quite normal for them to close down the portables and hire a special contractor to remove the Cancer and Lung hazard.  Looking at the other classrooms, there is really no way of knowing which one has asbestos.

Asbestos is a natural occurring mineral fiber that was used as a filler, and as an insulating material. It was banned from most building materials in 1986 by an act of congress based on studies of asbestos miners in Canada that showed it to be a toxic substance capable of causing lung cancer and lung disease.  As a result asbestos is no longer used as an ingredient of brake linings, paint products, vinyl floor tile, ceiling tiles and other materials.  The mineral is considered dangerous enough to  warrant  the need for specially licensed contractors to remove the product when found.

Signage Posted on Classrooms only when Asbestos is to be removed

There are specific sections of the Florida State Statutes dealing with Asbestos Management (Click Here). The law is very clear when it comes to public buildings. Florida State Statute 255.557(a) states that  written notice must be given to all building occupants and employees that there are friable asbestos-containing materials in the building. Such notice shall include a statement of the nature of the potential hazard and a warning against disturbing or damaging the asbestos-containing materials. The written notice shall identify the building asbestos contact person as the individual to be contacted for additional information or in the event of an emergency.  No such notice of any kind is currently posted, or has ever been given to any student or teacher that occupies the portables.  The Broward County School Board is not in compliance with this statute.  Even more disturbing is that Florida statute 235.061 states that all relocatables (another term for portables) used as classrooms must meet the public health and safety standards by July 1, 2001.  Why wait on this issue? The mere fact that hazardous materials are near any of our children is simply unacceptable and should be removed immediately!

The School Board knows there is a toxic substance in the portables.
I am certain that the School Board officials are going to say that there is nothing to worry about as for the most part the portables are safe, and that asbestos is only a hazard when it gets into the air…….but are they really certain of that? A slight damage to the wall of a portable, invoked a serious enough hazardous materials response that leads me to believe that this is a serious problem. The school board must have known about this problem as  the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) of 1986, , required schools to develop a “management plan” to address how to manage their asbestos problem. This management plan is required to be available to all concerned persons such as faculty, staff, parents, or other interested parties. So they must have this plan, and it must be available for us to see.

It is important to note that Florida school boards are not required to follow the Florida Building Code like every one else, as they have there own less restrictive code. Even the Coral Springs Building and Fire Departments do not have jurisdiction over any school facility.  As a result, there is no way for us to make certain that there is no other materials within the schools that may contain asbestos.  The only way is to let our city inspectors into the schools. They do not have a conflict of interest.  Only the Charter School of Coal Springs located on University and Sample Road was supervised by our building and fire departments. It is certain that this hazard does not exist there!

Teachers that work in these portables should be wary of the situation. It seems that the only time the school board removes the asbestos is when someone notices the tiles are damaged. What about when they do not notice it?  It is quite clear from all the information that we have read, asbestos is no simple matter. According to the information,  individuals exposed to asbestos at all levels can take as much as 20 years until something shows up.

Parents should not accept anything less than the school board removing each and every portable containing asbestos.  They must comply with the state statute and inform every teacher, student and parent of which portable contains asbestos. Each individual should have the right to determine if they want to be exposed to asbestos at any level.

There is an interesting Top Ten Questions about asbestos produced by the State of Oklahoma (click here)


Author: HelpMeHoward