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Asbestos to be removed at high school; classes still start Sept. 8

An environmental engineer discovered loose vermiculite insulation in parts of Marcellus High School’s Groeling Auditorium building on Aug. 26. The engineer was inspecting the school for potential asbestos-containing materials, as part of the district’s preparations to submit its capital improvement project plans to the New York State Education Department next month.

Because the New York State Department of Health considers all vermiculite used as pour-in, block insulation to be asbestos-containing material, the district immediately cordoned off the auditorium and adjacent rooms to students and adults. Then, on Aug. 27, the Board of Education passed an emergency resolution authorizing Interim Superintendent of Schools Judith C. Pastel to make arrangements for clean-up.

"The health and safety of our students, staff and community is of paramount importance," Dr. Pastel said. "We are moving as quickly as possible to remedy this situation safely and in accordance with state law."

The school year will begin as scheduled on Sept. 8.

A petition is being prepared for variance from the state’s Industrial Code Rule 56, so the district can start removing the vermiculite as soon as next week, at a cost of $20,000 to $40,000. The abatement work, which the district expects to be completed by Sept. 18, will present no health hazard. All required testing and certification will take place before the area is re-opened to students and staff.

During the asbestos removal process, student and staff access to the area will restricted. As a result, band students will meet temporarily in the choral room during the first two weeks of classes, and chorus students will meet in the large group instruction (LGI) room. Individual student choral and instrumental lessons, which are not typically scheduled until the end of September, should not be disrupted.

"There are no school events scheduled in the high school auditorium until October, so we’re hoping to keep interruptions to a minimum as school gets under way," Dr. Pastel said. "We are grateful to the community for its patience and understanding as we navigate this unexpected turn of events."

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