Mass. School Closed Over Building Material Concern

MERRIMAC, Mass. — Dr. Frederick N. Sweetsir Elementary School temporarily shut down after construction workers discovered potentially hazardous material inside.

Asbestos was found during a renovation of windows as part of the state’s green improvements plan.

“The school was built in the early 1950s and we expected we’d find some asbestos — we just didn’t expect to find it there,” said Bob Sinibaldi, the town’s building inspector.

The asbestos was discovered on Thursday, April 12 and the school was closed on Friday for testing and analysis of the material, which found that the asbestos was not released into the rest of the school.

Since the asbestos is not life-threatening, children have since been allowed to return to school. The district is monitoring the remaining asbestos.

“Intact, undisturbed asbestos-containing materials generally do not pose a health risk,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website. “These materials may become hazardous and pose increased risk if they are damaged, are disturbed in some manner or deteriorate over time and release asbestos fibers into building air.”

The asbestos at Sweetsir was not released into the air, so the agency recommends careful managing, not removing, the asbestos.

The school was inspected by Framingham, Mass.-based Universal Environmental Consultants. The company performed air and wipe sample tests, all of which confirmed that no hazardous materials had entered the air or surfaces around the school.

Although the situation wasn’t life-threatening, faculty and school officials said they took the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the students and staff.

“When schools and children are involved, there are extra precautions and more guidelines to be followed. The Merrimac Board of Health and Merrimac Building Inspector are closely monitoring the situation,” wrote Sweetsir principal Mary Beth Shea in her online blog for the school.