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Hopkinson the latest school to close due to asbestos fears

It is the seventh school this year to temporarily close.

Franklin Learning Center teacher Lou Fantini speaks at a rally before the start of Thursday’s Board of Education meeting. The board approved $14.2 million in contracts to expand testing for toxins and abatement.

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

District Update:

Due to the need for continued environmental testing at Francis Hopkinson School, students will be temporarily relocated to nearby schools beginning on Wednesday, Feb. 5. Students and staff in grades K through 2 will remain at the Little School House and modular on the Hopkinson campus. Students and staff in grades 3 through 5, including the AS Class, will relocate to unused classroom space at Roberto Clemente Middle School (122 W. Erie Ave.). Students and staff in grades 6 through 8, including the AS Class, will relocate to unused classroom space at Grover Washington Middle School (201 E. Olney Ave.).

There was no single relocation site nearby large enough to house the entire school community, so three alternate locations were identified.

Breakfast and lunch will still be served to students. In addition, bus transportation to and from Hopkinson will be provided for students. As a reminder, Feb. 5 through Feb. 7 are previously scheduled half days for students throughout the District for Report Card Conferences. Buses for grades 3 through 8 will depart Hopkinson at 8:05 a.m. and return to Hopkinson starting at 12:15 p.m.

Report card conferences will be held at Hopkinson’s Little School House from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and specific details have been shared with families.

Francis Hopkinson Elementary School in Juniata will be closed Monday and Tuesday due to new concerns that “asbestos-containing materials may have been disturbed above ceiling tiles that were replaced over the summer,” according to a School District news release.

As with other temporary school closures that have occurred this school year, staff will report to the Little School House and students will be able to stop by between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. to pick up grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches.

Prior cases of damaged asbestos at the school “that have been identified were communicated with families and addressed,” the statement said. Independent companies will do the testing, and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) “will be invited to work with the District on the process and all results will be reviewed with the organization.”

Last month, the PFT sued the District, accusing it of negligence and secrecy in its handling of asbestos exposure in schools. The union wants the courts to step in to supervise cleanup efforts and certify when buildings are safe for occupancy.

Hopkinson is a K-8 school with about 850 students. It is the seventh school building to be closed since the academic year started due to fears of damaged asbestos.

On Thursday, the Board of Education approved $14.2 million in spending to improve testing and asbestos abatement in schools.

Updates will be available on the District website and the school website.

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