A Central Park Middle School gym has been sealed off for more than a week, after a construction worker discovered asbestos while cutting into a drain pipe.
The worker was trying to cut through fiber glass insulation on the pipe on Nov. 8 — a day when students were not at school — when he hit a suspicious looking material that tested positive as asbestos, Superintendent Larry Spring said.
Much construction work on schools involves asbestos abatement, and Spring has repeatedly told school board members that, as long as they are working on renovating and updating schools, they will have asbestos abatement to do.
But construction teams can usually identify where the asbestos is likely to be and plan around the abatement work, which requires specialized contractors. Larry Tune, a construction manager with Turner Construction, told the school board Wednesday night that the fiberglass insulation around the pipe would normally indicate the pipe had previously been checked for asbestos.
“Luckily, it was a relatively small and contained area,” Spring said of where the asbestos was found.
But under mandatory safety precautions, the district has sealed off the gym since last week. The district has also had to control the school’s air pressure, so air from the area around the asbestos does not spread.
The gym cannot be reopened until air samples come back clean, Spring said. The district was awaiting results as of Thursday. He said he expects the gym to be in use by next week.
Gym classes at Central Park, in the meantime, have had to use the school’s second gym or spend time outside. Spring said teachers and staff across the district have had to be flexible, as around $70 million of work unfolds at schools across the district.
“I don’t think the PE teachers are any more or any less inconvenienced than everyone else,” Spring said.