LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — A group of concerned parents from the Pinelands Regional School District want to make parents from other school districts aware of possible exposure to asbestos after a roofing project gone awry closed the high school indefinitely in October.
Calling themselves Parents on a Mission, the grass-roots group, led by Little Egg Harbor Township resident Dane Apgar, believes athletes from other districts may have been exposed to asbestos while playing games at Pinelands Regional High School from August through October.
“Due to concerns for our own children, we feel it necessary to inform all parents of students who have played outdoor sporting events at the Pinelands complex this fall that their child may have been exposed to asbestos. We are in the midst of calling for a complete investigation into this matter,” Apgar wrote in a letter submitted to The Press this week.
Pinelands Regional Superintendent Maryann Banks did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
According to the most recent environmental test results dated Nov. 27, testing was done Nov. 16 and 17 around the perimeter of the school, which found two areas with elevated levels of the asbestos material Chrysotile. In the results letter, posted on the district website, the district’s environmental consultant, TTI Environmental, said it believes the asbestos to be debris from the ongoing roofing project.
TTI recommends in the letter that all landscape beds and grass areas be raked to ensure “all roofing debris is identified and disposed of properly.”
On the district website, a “Construction Q & A” section has been added that includes answers to parents’ questions from two meetings in November, as well as an undated question from Patty and Ken Persichetti asking why children are being allowed on playing fields.
“You found asbestos on surrounding perimeter of high school, what makes you think the fields are safe?” the Persichettis asked.
The answer posted from Banks states she has directed that no students should be on the fields pending test results from TTI.
Banks acknowledges this answer conflicts with an answer from the Nov. 6 Pinelands Board of Education meeting when a parent asked if the playing fields had been tested. At the time, Chuck Romanoli, of New Road Construction, the construction manager on the project, answered there was no airborne asbestos because it would be too heavy to blow in the wind.
Banks subsequently responded, “Despite that statement I have requested that TTI conduct testing of soil in adjacent fields, including the field directly across from the high school. TTI advises that they expect to have the results no later than Monday, Nov. 20.” Those results had not been posted to the district website as of Friday.
Friday’s news comes after growing parent concern regarding the ongoing roofing project at Pinelands Regional High School, which has been closed since the end of October after a screw fell on a student. The district closed for several days in early November due to asbestos contamination.
Because of the closing of the high school, students in the district are on split sessions at the junior high and will remain so at least through winter break at the end of December, according to the latest press release on the matter from the district, dated Nov. 8.