Asbestos Work Displaces 300 Students from Falmouth Schools

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

Up to two buildings will be needed to house 304 Falmouth students who have been displaced for two months due to asbestos work. The asbestos was discovered when contractors were working at the Teaticket Elementary School on Maravista Avenue.

There was asbestos abatement happening, which was successfully completed. But another ongoing project was taking place to replace the heating and air-handling units in each room. Asbestos was disturbed during that work.

According to the Director of Finance and Facilities for Falmouth District, Patrick Murphy, “A subsequent air test came back ‘hot’ for the substance, which triggered the building-wide shutdown.”

That’s when administrators were prompted to delay the usual September 6 opening of the school year.

“The district doesn’t know yet how widespread the asbestos contamination is and where the previously undiscovered asbestos is located. Summer camps had been relocated this year to other buildings and there were no staff present while the HVAC work was being done, but it’s unclear if there was any chance of exposure for students and staff prior to the work,” said Murphy.

According to Superintendent Nancy Taylor, “There is no single building in the district that could house the entire school population for two months, the anticipated length of the asbestos work.”

“We’re trying to work it through. We are getting there. We want to minimize the number of buildings, quite frankly, so that it’s not so fragmented,” said Taylor.

“I envision splitting up Teaticket students by grade, possibly with preschoolers, kindergartners, and first-graders going to one location and grades two through four going to another,” she said. “But the final plan will depend on building size and transportation logistics.”

“It’s just looking like chaos right now,” said parent Danielle Huckemeyer whose children would be sent to separate schools. “If they have to go to another school and get another teacher and new classes, (will they) then get split up from the kids they’ve known for two months to uproot them again and switch them to Teaticket? It is frustrating.”

Another parent, Philip Alfonso, wonders, “Was it [asbestos] wrapped around a piling or was it in duct work? Could it have been going through the vents into kids’ lungs? There are so many unanswered questions. I already have a gut feeling that it’s going to be a ‘no comment’ or ‘not sure’ situation.”

School officials, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Labor Standards, and the environmental and abatement contractors reviewed the asbestos removal plans earlier this week. The cost has not been determined yet.