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April 08, 2023

School District of Philadelphia anticipates more asbestos will be identified after two more schools closed

Sampling results inaccurately cleared Frankford High and Mitchell Elementary of containing the toxins. Students will shift to virtual learning next week

Education Asbestos
More asbestos philly schools Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Two more School District of Philadelphia schools are closing after asbestos was discovered. The toxin was found in Frankford High and Mitchell Elementary this week. Testing previously cleared both schools of having asbestos.

The School District of Philadelphia is closing two more schools after asbestos was discovered this week. 

Both Frankford High School and Mitchell Elementary will be closed starting next week, the discovery in the latter was bad enough to close the building for the remainder of the school year. 

With the recent discovery of asbestos in four of Philly's school buildings, the district anticipates there will be more schools revealed to have the toxins. Sampling tests from the 1990s previously inaccurately labeled both Frankford and Mitchell as “non-asbestos containing," school district officials said. 

Frankford students will have virtual learning next week, the Inquirer reported

Mitchell students will begin with virtual learning and an alternate school site will be announced next week. Students and staff will reconvene at the new site later this month, a letter on the school's website said.

A letter sent out by the School District of Philadelphia Friday evening said that the recent sampling tests prompted a comprehensive review of the records of other schools. 

"This is not an indication of the program failing, but rather the program is working to protect health and safety through the identification and management of environmental concerns. This improved inspection process - while revealing environmental hazards - is working as it should throughout the District," a spokesperson for the district, Monique Braxton said.

Philadelphia City Councilmember Isaiah Thomas,  who is the chairperson of the education committee, demanded the district create a comprehensive plan.

"Recently, I've teamed with our state partners to find state funding to put the necessary dollars behind the needed facilities plan," Thomas said. "The School District of Philadelphia continues to agree with the need for a facilities plan but we have yet to see the plan or the sense of urgency."

District leaders are meeting this weekend to finalize plans, Braxton said.

Last month concerns were raised when asbestos was found in the district's Building 21 school. An investigation into the errors in identifying the toxin was launched by Superintendent Tony Watlington. 

Also, last month Simon Gratz High School, the charter school that uses a school district building discovered asbestos and was shut down while the exposure was remedied. 

Last year City Council voted to approve asbestos inspections in all Philadelphia schools. School district officials opposed the ordinance, saying that it would delay existing efforts to remediate asbestos from its schools and be in direct conflict with a federal law that governs the health and safety of school buildings.