Sussex Elementary School is closed because of asbestos fibers


Sussex Elementary in Essex was closed yesterday because tests found high levels of asbestos fibers in the air, and word is expected Monday on whether the school will have to be closed indefinitely for asbestos removal.

Baltimore County school officials decided to close the school yesterday and Monday after routine monitoring tests done at the school Thursday night found higher-than-acceptable levels of asbestos fibers.

Exposure to high concentration of asbestos fibers can lead to asbestosis, a scarring of the lung tissue, and also has been linked to cancer.

The closing went smoothly, according to school officials and a PTA representative.

"We spent today testing the whole building to verify the readings we received Thursday night," said Keith D. Kelley, assistant superintendent for facilities. "Those test samples are still at the laboratory."

Richard L. Barranger, assistant superintendent for the southeast area, said because verification results probably won't be known until today or tomorrow, "we are going to keep the school closed Monday because of our concern for the safety of the children and staff."

The school, located in the 500 block of S. Woodward Drive, has 515 students and a staff of 27.

Mr. Barranger said school officials will arrange a meeting with parents as soon as possible to "alleviate any fears and answer any questions they may have." we are going to be honest and up front with them through this situation he said.

School officials already have contacted other schools in the area about possible space to house the students from Sussex should the school be closed for longer than Monday, Mr. Barranger said.

Immediate air samples taken in the school's lobby, principal's office and a kindergarten classroom produced the high readings. School officials announced on radio and TV stations early yesterday that the school was being closed due to mechanical problems. "It was decided to announce the closing as a mechanical problem so as not to start a panic and to give the school's administration a chance to explain the situation to the PTA president and parents," Mr. Barranger said.

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