Community leaders protest after asbestos discovered in Philadelphia schools

Parents and community leaders are protesting Monday following the discovery of asbestos at a North Philadelphia elementary school.

Students from kindergarten through sixth grade attend classes at T.M. Peirce Elementary School, which the teachers’ union says has exposed asbestos in the pipes above the gym.

"It is present and we believe it needs to be removed for the safety of the children and the staff in the building," said Jerry Jordan of Philadelphia's Federation of Teachers.

The union says its environmental scientist inspected the area in September and urged the district to close the gym, but it remained open.


Officials say asbestos-damaged material was discovered in the school’s basement. The removal of the asbestos-containing insulation began Friday night.

"You have to close the school,” said Tamitra Foremad, a parent to pme T.M. Pierce fifth grader. “You have cancer-causing materials that’s going in the air. Not just the kids but the staff that has to come to work.”

In recent weeks, the school district closed the combined Benjamin Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy after asbestos was discovered in the schools.

Now, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is calling for an immediate $100 million investment to perform lead and damaged asbestos abatement in Philadelphia's public schools.

In a statement, the School District of Philadelphia emphasized its commitment to "strengthening environmental safety in schools across the city by thoroughly reviewing and strengthening safety processes and practices," among other measures. 

The district also noted its recent announcement of $500 million in borrowing for Fiscal Year 2020 that will provide for the planned construction of a new Peirce school building.