Another delay: 2 high schools closed from asbestos will not reopen as scheduled in January, superintendent says

UPDATED: Nov. 15, 12:30 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Students from two Philly high schools will not be returning to their buildings at the beginning of the new year as scheduled.

Both Ben Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy, which started sharing an adjoined building this school year, were abruptly closed after severe asbestos was found discovered early last month.

After many discussions between school officials, faculty and parents, the School District of Philadelphia decided SLA students will attend classes at district headquarters and nearby Congregation Rodeph Shalom, while Ben Franklin students will go to the former Khepera Charter School in North Philadelphia.  

Students resumed classes at their interim buildings on Oct. 14.

Asbestos construction is anticipated to last through the end of December, and students were expected to return on Jan. 2. However, Superintendent William Hite said Thursday that they will not be back by January.

Another delay: @SDPHite says students at Ben Franklin High and Science Leadership Academy will NOT be back in their building on January 2. A task force advising on the asbestos removal meets 12/13 to recommend a new date.

— Mike DeNardo (@_MikeDeNardo) November 14, 2019

“We had originally planned for a Jan. 2 reoccupancy that will now be pushed back,” he said. “It's pushed back because there needs to be time to complete the additional work.”

A task force dedicated to the asbestos removal will meet on Dec. 13 to recommend a new start date.

Another meeting is planned for Monday at Thomas M. Peirce Elementary School, dealing with similar asbestos issues. Hite said administrators want to present a relocation site for Peirce students, if it is determined that students should be moved out of that building during asbestos removal.

Hite added the district is temporarily restructuring its operations department — separating out facilities and maintenance from food services and transportation — to allow for more attention to environmental issues.


KYW Newsradio's Rachel Kurland and Mike DeNardo contributed to this report.