Asbestos issue worries parents at Berg MS – Newton Daily News

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Berg Middle School parents remain concerned about asbestos issues in the existing building and are concerned that Newton Community School District administrators aren’t doing enough to address the issue. But, the contractor hired by the school district says there’s no cause for alarm.

In June of this year, the school board voted to remove the existing carpet from 48 classrooms at Berg in order to perform an abatement process designed to remove asbestos from the building. After Lucinda Sinclair, a special education teacher at Berg posted on Facebook about the removal of carpet from her classroom, parents have expressed concern over their children’s exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos, the name given to a group of minerals that are resistant to heat and corrosion, was commonly used in construction projects before it’s perilous effect on humans. Asbestos is cancerous, and prolonged exposure to the fibers has been shown to hurt lung tissue. The location of the asbestos that’s being removed from the school is part of the mastic, or glue, used to set the tile floors in the classrooms.

Courtney Grogan, a parent of a sixth-grader and an eighth-grader who attend Berg said that she and other parents feel out of touch with the district. Grogan said no one told her about the asbestos removal, or that many of the classrooms would be without carpet when the school year starts next month.

“I just don’t like the fact that kids are going to go there if there’s asbestos,” Grogan said. “I guess I’ve never dealt with it before, but if it happened in my house, I’d replace everything.”

While she doesn’t reckon Sinclair tried to undermine the district by posting on Facebook about the lack of flooring in her classroom, Grogan said she doesn’t reckon the teacher handled it the right way.

“I reckon she was probably doing it from the excellent of her heart,” Grogan said.

Fellow Berg parent Mike Schwartz said he wants to see the carpet replaced in the middle school. If not carpet, then Schwartz said the district needs to let parents know what other flooring options are available for the classrooms.

“Honestly, it wouldn’t be a terrible thing to place carpet back in, we pay taxes for a reason,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz feels like the lack of carpet will make “distractions in a learning environment,” and he want to see the district find a solution. Like Grogan, he expressed disappointment in what he feels is poor communication between the NCSD and parents at Berg.

Chuck Woodworth, who owns Environmental Property Solutions, the contractor hired to handle the asbestos abatement at Berg Middle School says there’s nothing for parents to be concerned about. Woodworth said that technicians take special care to limit exposure to the fibers, and their work is overseen daily by a third-party regulatory agency that checks the air quality.

The project is in it’s final stages this week although Woodward said that the huge blue dumpster out in front of the school, with it’s clear warnings about asbestos, will remain until the final air quality checks have been completed.

“We don’t mess around with this stuff,” Woodward said. “The people who work for me are my friends, we want them to be safe.”

While Woodward can know the concerns that parents might have, he pointed out that in buildings built before 1990, the use of asbestos based materials is common. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates the use of asbestos, and in order to limit exposure any asbestos product is required to be encapsulated, a process which prevents the asbestos from becoming airborne. Woodward said the NCSD has always been at the forefront of asbestos safety.

“There’s nothing airborne or fibrous in this material, and that’s a fact,” Woodward said. “They [NCSD] were very proactive in the early days, they went after the pipe insulations and adding carpet.”

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or ddolmage@newtondailynews.com

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