20 Aug 2014
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Angry Parents Seek Answers on Jamaica Avenue Roof Repairs

Asbestos removal is part of the project; District assures parents that children are safe and the material is contained, not airborne.

Angry Parents Seek Answers on Jamaica Avenue Roof Repairs Angry Parents Seek Answers on Jamaica Avenue Roof Repairs Angry Parents Seek Answers on Jamaica Avenue Roof Repairs

Angry parents have complained they were not kept informed of an asbestos abatement program being undertaken by the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District at

The district is replacing the roof on the school it still owns on Jamaica Avenue and leases to two daycare centers which, in turn, serve about 100 Plainview families and several hundred children, parents said.

When the questions about asbestos were raised, parents began complaining to the district that they were not informed of the issue and feared for the health of their children. The that uses the school property for its youth league has moved its practices away from the playing fields at the corner of Jamaica Avenue and Orchard Street, parents said.

But Monday afternoon, school officials sought to calm the concerns: They assured residents their children are safe and the asbestos is not floating freely in the atmosphere near the school.

"I want to say first and foremost, the safety and well-being of the district's children comes first," said Kim Parahus, the district's director of school facilities and operations. "I can say that as a parent, whether that's mine or anyone else's kids. We would not and will not expose the children to any danger."

The asbestos material was discovered as part of the site study performed by the contractor and required by a variety of state agencies, Parahus said. That study revealed the asbestos is contained in the roof's flashing, not the roof deck itself, and is non-friable, meaning it can not become airborne. Simply removing the flashing will not disturb the asbestos contained inside.

The roof on Jamaica Avenue is the original, built some 60 years ago. The repair project, slated to take 22 work days, is being done at a cost of $848,500, Parahus said.

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In a letter to the district last week, Jennifer B. Leest said she was "appalled" by the district's lack of communication.

"Parents were not given ample notice about this project, said Leest, who has a son in "Nor were we given more specific facts until one week before the planned construction. We have been told that the District is keeping within what is considered 'code' for safety. This is not enough for me."

Those include Attorney Jeffrey Lesser who, in a sternly worded letter last week, demanded the district "cease and desist" all work on the building until parents can be fully informed.

"It is abhorrent that parents would be advised that asbestos abatement work following initiation of such work at the school," Lesser wrote.

Parents of both day care centers -- the other is -- want the work delayed until the summer. The work was slated to begin Monday but has now been delayed because of weather and scheduling until at least Monday May 21.

The district hopes the new information will help to alleviate the concerns.

Delaying the project until summer isn't an option, because that would impact summer school children at Jamaica Avenue who play outside during that time period, Parahus said. The roofing material itself is sprayed on and could fly about the school yard. No children will be allowed outside when the spraying takes place.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral used for centuries and was widely employed during 20th Century construction, long before its health effects were understood. Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers are known to cause serious health hazards in humans. The key though is "long-term" exposure to airborne asbestos.

Mesotheliomas have been reported in workers, especially miners, exposed to certain types of asbestos, along with family members of the workers and residents who lived close to asbestos factories and mines, according to researchers.

The material's widespread use is because of its sound absorption qualities, tensile strenghth and fire and heat resistance. The contained asbestos, and thousands of tons of the material are thought to have spread over lower Manhattan when the collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001. 

Jamaica Avenue is the second school-district owned property in recent weeks that has encountered issues with schools leased to tenants. another former Plainview elementary school, has been the subject of a debate over parking. District officials have promised to meet with neighbors to work out compromises.

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