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June 30th, 2004 Dave Fitzpatrick | Rogue of the Week
 

Mount Scott Middle School

     
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Mount Scott Middle School
IMAGE: TOM OLIVER
Here at Rogue Central, we're convinced charter schools do a better job than traditional public schools in reaching kids struggling in conventional classrooms. We also believe they deserve the same protection as public-school students, which brings us to Mount Scott Middle School.

The charter school, which had 60 students last year, is housed in Kenilworth Presbyterian Church on Southeast Gladstone Street and is responsible for the facilities.

Last summer, school staffers pulled up the floor tiles in the language-arts room as part of a building upgrade. According to documents filed with the state, they knew the tiles contained asbestos. Proper removal of the known carcinogen requires taking steps to reduce dust, as well as storage in special, extra-thick plastic bags. Yet former instructor Lisa Iacuzzi--who worked at the school during the removal process--says principal Janet Bauer sent her to buy trash bags while Bauer pried the tiles up with a crowbar.

In a statement to U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration officials, Iacuzzi said she returned to a dust-filled building and the tiles were stuffed into 22 garbage bags, then placed in an adjacent mechanical room.

Bauer admits the tiles were stored improperly but says they were transferred into approved bags before she finally disposed of them on Friday, Feb. 27, one school day before state asbestos specialist Kevin McCrann visited the school to investigate a complaint filed by Iacuzzi.

McCrann's visit resulted in a "notice of noncompliance" for the school, whose officials, according to state law, should have hired a state-certified contractor or sought certification themselves. "By your own admission, you felt sure that the tile contained asbestos but you chose not to investigate the regulatory compliance that you would be subject to if the removal took place," McCrann wrote in his March 2 report.

It was only then, on March 3, that Bauer sent parents a letter discussing the asbestos issue and an impending air-quality test. Iacuzzi's complaint and McCrann's stern letter weren't mentioned. Luckily, the test results showed no asbestos in the air--a fact that would have been more comforting had it come six months earlier.

 
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