Recently Released Records Show Portland Public Schools With Asbestos

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

Records were released last week showing numerous Portland Public Schools (PPS) contain asbestos . In fact, 13 pages of school buildings with known asbestos were generated as a partial list of problems in order to plan future remediation projects for a possible capital bond. “This is a sampling of asbestos repairs from a larger database of district-wide projects,” said PPS.

PPS Senior Director of Facilities, David Hobbs, advised his superiors of the problems about a month before they became public knowledge. Fifteen high-priority schools were named with project costs of $7 million. Unfortunately, the schools with the most-needed repairs will not get fixed right away because the district plans to completely rebuild them.

In fact, Portland is a city with several sites where asbestos exposure occurred. Those who worked with and/or around asbestos containing materials are potentially at risk to develop mesothelioma, a type of asbestos cancer.

Schools are no exception to asbestos containing job sites. Asbestos exposure is not only a risk to students, but also teachers. In a study conducted between 1999 and 2001, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), found a substantially elevated rate of mesothelioma cancer among schoolteachers in the United States, whose only known exposure to the mineral was on the job.

Unfortunately, mesothelioma treatment has historically done little to combat the disease, and many of the study’s individuals have succumbed to the effects of asbestos exposure.

In terms of projected costs, Benson High School needs $5 million, Grant High needs $7.6 million, Lincoln is at $3.3 million, and Madison is around $3.2 million. Work ranges from replacing roofs, seismic upgrades, and poorly sealed walls to insufficient fire alarms and sprinklers. PPS’ grand total for these updates equates to about $96 million.

A bond was approved in 2012 to begin building a new Grant High School since it’s number one on the priority list. Construction is expected to cost $112 million and be finished by 2019.

Benson, Lincoln, and Madison’s rebuilds would be part of the possible 2016 capital bond to be decided upon in November. There’s the chance of a bond not even making it to the ballot. Building all three high schools will cost over $600 million, which is the maximum for a bond measure.