After weeks of meetings and deliberation with the Calendar Committee comprised of the presidents of the various unions at Herricks and the PTA Council and central administration the school board voted to open school this year after Labor Day.
Last year, Herricks School was one of a very few schools that opened prior to Labor Day and although there was almost a 95 percent attendance on that day, both members of the board and quite a few parents felt it was too much of a hardship to open before Labor Day.
Therefore, the board voted to open school on Sept. 7 and to hold three contingency days in case of snow days. The days voted on as contingency days are: May 1, April 28 and April 27.
The proposed and voted-on calendar will have 183 instructional days, as required by law.
Dr. Mae Timer reported on the reinspection report of the AHERA. She explained that this is a federal law, passed by Congress in 1987 and in effect in 1989, that requires every public school to inspect all of their buildings for any asbestos. In doing so, Dr. Timer said they are to determine the condition of the asbestos.
During her talk, however, Herricks Superintendent Dr. Sidney Freund explained that she is much too modest in explaining her role. Dr. Timer, for many years, he said, worked with the state education department and is an expert on asbestos and wrote the manual for school use on asbestos.
Most residents and the board wanted to know about the crawl space tunnel that is located under the Herricks Community Center. This area has been the subject of discussion and it was thought that the cost to abate it would be quite a lot of money.
However, Dr. Timer explained that the area, which is very small in height (about 5 feet), and runs the length of the building, and contains only pipes that are thermal wrapped. During the many years that the building has been in existence, before it was known that asbestos was a problem, many workers have been in that area and have caused a lot of damage.
"In order to abate the area, " she explained, "You would have to remove the asbestos in the sand and in order to do that you would have to remove all the sand, which is the flooring and cleanse that and then remove it, which would be too costly. Then, if it was possible you would have to concrete the entire area, which is probably not possible since it is an undulating area, plus the cost would be high."
Dr. Timer added, "However, it is not necessary to do so, since this space is not an occupied area. We have sealed off the tunnel and when and if there are any repairs to any of the pipes in that area the workers will suit up in asbestos gear, complete with respirator masks, and repair the pipes that way."
Trustee Emilia Sutz said that she has been involved with various asbestos committees for many years and in essence she is in strong disagreement with Dr. Timer's assessment of the lack of danger, especially in the three Searingtown tunnels; one in particular that excretes air into the building. Dr. Timer explained again that the area is not dangerous and you could eat off the floor of those tunnels. Sutz disagreed. Dr. Sidney Freund then questioned the the "motives" of Trustee Sutz.
Sutz answered, "My motives are to do what is best for the district and I'm not in the asbestos business!"
Dr. Timer explained that whenever you have any asbestos in the building the law requires that every six months you do a visual inspection of the asbestos to see if there are any changes. In order to do this, she said, she is carrying around a spray can of blue paint; blue is the color for this six months and that particular area has been inspected mostly in thermal insulation areas.
She went on to say, "The kind of asbestos that we have in buildings is known under three categories. Thermal Insulation: Which is basically pipe wrapping. Asbestos in its day was a wonderful material for keeping heat in."
The next category she explained was surfacing materials which she explained as the material that is sprayed on, troweled on or otherwise applied to surfaces such as acoustical plaster on ceilings and fireproofing materials on structural members or other materials on surfaces for acoustical, fireproofing or other purposes.
The last category, Dr. Timer explained, is called Miscellaneous, which in reality means floor tiles She explained, "Most floor tile that is 9" x 9" usually indicates that it is an older floor tile used during the days when they were using asbestos as a binder in the material to keep it intact."
Dr. Timer, further explained, "The law requires that all inspections be completed by an approved and certified inspector and a management planner developer. These people hold certification and they go to school and are trained and they are also certified under the New York State Labor Department."
When they first started the inspections, Dr. Timer said, they started with base line data, which was probably the most difficult because it was the original inspection and rooms had to be measured and samples were taken for testing.
She continued, "If you do not test the material than you must assume the material is asbestos and then a floor plan was submitted identifying any asbestos. Every three years after that initial inspection the law further requires schools to do another inspection to determine if there are any changes from the first inspection. The changes are then noted and called, 'response actions' and given a classification and if there is a serious problem then the area has to be isolated and removed."
"In reviewing the inspection report for this year, we have found we have some thermal, but most of it is in miscellaneous which is the floor tile. The surfacing material is not much, the areas are outlined in books that are in each building for the use by the custodians and any workers in the building and may be inspected by anyone."
Dr. Timer said, "The problems in the Herricks district are in two categories: tile installation and miscellaneous. Basically, we have taken care of most of it in the district and to keep track of it and then maintain it, using the code of O & M (Operations and Maintenance). For instance, in the high school there are only 12 sites which might simply be an elbow in a boiler room pipe."
She said, "All of the asbestos in this district is all right where it is as long as it is protected from unnecessary damage, which might be a leak or a crack in the area where there is asbestos."
"So, overall when you begin to look at the situation in the Herricks district you will see that most of the work that has to be done is not an emergency situation. The goal of the district is tackle the most serious situations and if there is no change in those areas then the best solution is to simply leave it alone."
At the end of the discussion an audience member, who said she had not been at meetings in a while, commented, "The tension between board members make me feel very uncomfortable!"