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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 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.

Marni May 14, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Great article Joe - thank you. I still strongly believe the work should commence in the summer when school is out. Parents have the option to utilize another camp for the summer but now kids are already there and existing parents have no such option.
Mitchell Siff May 14, 2012 at 11:29 PM
As per the POB Senior Club's page, the seniors will "not be able to use the school until the work is concluded. Unfortunately, that means there will be no exercise or dancing classes until further notice." Why is it ok for the children and not the seniors???
Joe Dowd (Editor) May 15, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Mitchell: I will look into it. It may not be related to the asbestos at all, but the construction efforts. The district was very forthcoming with me. Let's give them a chance to respond.
Joe Dowd (Editor) May 15, 2012 at 02:40 AM
Marni: Thank you. If it helps, I was assured in no uncertain terms and more specifically than I was able to write in the article that the kids are safe and the asbestos poses no threat. It has to do with the lack of airborne asbestos. The material would have to be superheated just to release the particles. I believe the kids are safe, based upon the conversation. Best to you.. jd
Simba May 15, 2012 at 08:42 AM
Is there any reason to believe that the other schools in the district have asbestos issues as well ?
TheGreek May 15, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Simba, In that era, every steam pipe was wrapped with asbestos, so yes, we have to assume that it is there, unless it has been known to have been removed, or was surveyed and not found. On the other hand, it poses no danger IF it is left alone.
Richard May 15, 2012 at 04:34 PM
bottom line - we need NEW schools - these 1970 era schools need to be retired. When was the last time a NEW school was built in Plainview ? All this tax money - where does it go ?
MG May 16, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Richard 35-40% goes to pay pensions retirees and medical benefits the number of the retireees now exceeds the amount of active teachers and staff this is due to the imbalance in the population 2.7 to 1 in a macro level - therefore the dollars being used become less and less - we are taxed more my taxs are up in 7years 22.5%! In terms of the asbestos Joe is correct - the majority of the roofing and insulation piping material has to be heat and or detoriated in the air constant exposure the biggest covern would be in ceiling tiles and dry wall but i dont think it is in there -
merry l. May 16, 2012 at 03:31 PM
We don't need to build new schools. Enrollment has declined since these schools were built. Many districts are using schools that are even older than ours. We need to properly maintain the facilities that we have. Tax dollars go toward this under capital spending. The rest goes to programs, salaries and benefits.
Richard May 16, 2012 at 03:42 PM
NEW schools contribute to attracting new families to the area - new families bring in more taxes and increase local business - more taxes pays for replacing more 1970's antiquadated, deteriorating schools ...... simple !
Simba May 16, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Merry Enrollment has not gone down at all, 2005 total 5111 students, this year 5200 students. As far as them maintaining the schools, don't hold your breath. The window blinds in the middle school are probably the original blinds, either that or the buildup of dirt on then means they have never been cleaned. Took my son for swimming lessons in the High School, the locker room was disgusting.....I'll believe it when I see it.
Ms. G. May 17, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Not only were parents not informed, but surrounding residents were not inormed either. Asbestos, unsafe sidewalks that the district refuses to repair, and half filled trenches leftover from gas lines - Jamaica Ave school is a lawsuit waiting to happen.
Jodi Campagna June 19, 2012 at 02:35 PM
As a parent with a student at Shalom, I can tell you this project was a nightmare. Parking lots were closed at times, and I was forced to walk my children across Jamaica Avenue - not an easy thing to do at 4:30 pm when there is a lot of traffic. And the communication on the status of the project from the district was vague or incomplete, at best. For example, updates were often sent out after 5 pm....if we had questions regarding the following morning, the district offices were closed and therefore unavailable to provide answers. Additionally, we were also promised the results of daily air quality testing. Once or twice we were told the results were "within NY DOL standards", but the actual results were never shared with us - and we certainly did not get those updates "daily" as agreed to. And, the final insult was this - Assistant Superintendent Ryan Ruf has been using the fact that one of his children attends Debbie's as proof that the project was "safe". Why would he allow the work to be done with his child in the building if there was any danger, right? Well "conveniently", all work done over the Debbie's wing was handled on the weekend - when no children were in the building. Some of the work done over Gymboree's area and Shalom's section was completed on weekdays. So, Mr. Ruf's child was never actually in the building while they were working directly overhead. MY child, on the other hand, was. Coincidence? I don't think so.

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