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October 01, 2019

Benjamin Franklin High School, Science Leadership Academy closed after asbestos detected in building

During an environmental inspection at the North Broad Street shared campus, airborne asbestos fibers were found in construction areas

Public Health Schools
1001_BenFranklin asbestos Benjamin Franklin High School/Google Maps

The shared campus of Benjamin Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy on North Broad Street is closed until Thursday because inspectors found asbestos in the building.

Two Philly public high schools have been temporarily closed after inspectors found asbestos in the building's boiler room and other common areas.

Benjamin Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy, began sharing a building on North Broad Street just south of Spring Garden Street this academic year, will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday to remove hazardous materials. 

There is a tentative plan to reopen school on Thursday for its about 1,000 students after the asbestos abatement is complete, the School District of Philadelphia announced Monday night.

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During an inspection Monday, officials found airborne asbestos fibers inside areas where ductwork insulation had been damaged. The areas were unoccupied parts of the building currently or recently under renovation. 

Officials said the air inside the campus's boiler room and in "areas within the first floor construction area and areas immediately outside" of SLA's commons area tested positive for asbestos fibers, but at levels below the safety threshold set by the Philadelphia Department of Health. 

School officials still opted to close the school as precaution for the safety of students and staff. 

In a statement issued by the district and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, officials said while the schools are closed, inspectors will continue testing to rule out the possibility of asbestos in other parts of the building. 

The $37 million project to combine Benjamin Franklin and SLA into one campus on North Broad has been a cause for major concern for both parents and staff, despite the district's promise that the building would be safe for kids. Even as the new school year started — after two false starts to the first day of school in September due to building delays — Benjamin Franklin and SLA remain active construction sites. 

The Inquirer reported some areas of the school are still inaccessible to students, boxes remain in hallways, and plywood is still blocking off other areas.

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