Asbestos discovery in existing Greeley West roof leads to early end to school year

The discovery of a layer of asbestos in the roof of the old Greeley West High School building will lead to an early end of the school year on April 29 for students and staff at the 57-year-old high school, Greeley-Evans School District 6 said Monday.

The asbestos was found last week in the hex or main section of the existing school — which is the majority of what remains of the old building, according to the school district. This building is expected to be demolished in the coming months to make way for the new Greeley West building which will open for the 2022-23 school year.

Greeley West High School principal Jeff Cranson said in a message to families at the school on Monday that the discovery of asbestos means more time is needed to deal with its removal – known under the name of reduction – which must be done before the original building can be demolished.

District officials met with school staff and management on Monday morning to update them on the evolving situation.

District 6 communications chief Theresa Myers said early Monday afternoon that administration and teachers at Greeley West will work with students who have not completed school work by April 29 to help finish before the end of the school year scheduled for May 19.

The school will use the 25% of classrooms currently open in the new Greeley West building to accommodate pupils during these weeks, as well as remote learning if necessary according to Myers. Other classrooms in the rebuilt school are not yet ready for occupancy.

“We will continue to bring students in person to the newly constructed school or other locations who need additional support to complete current classes, to take assessments including the AP and IB tests, to complete projects and for those who need other support,” Cranson said. in his email to families.

GREELEY, CO – AUGUST 03: Greeley West High School Principal Jeff Cranson speaks during the closing ceremony for the complete reconstruction of Greeley West High School in Greeley on August 3, 2021. The ceremony, which takes place just under a year after the official groundbreaking on the project, marks a milestone in the construction process during which the final structural beams are put into place. Before the final three beams were put in place, students, teachers, administrators and other participants were able to sign the beams, which will remain visible in the final building. (Alex McIntyre/staff photographer)

Asbestos is a mineral fiber found in rock and soil, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Asbestos has been used in a variety of building materials for insulation and as a fire retardant due to the strength of its fibers and its resistance to heat, the EPA writes on its website.

Asbestos does not pose a health risk if properly managed, according to the agency.

Myers said the asbestos found last week is “significant” but is entirely contained in the original roof materials of the old building. Orion Environmental Inc. in Brighton is the school district’s reduction contractor in Greeley West. The district was aware of other asbestos that needed to be removed from the building, Myers said.

Myers said Orion will assess the asbestos found to determine when it can begin the abatement process. Myers said the district hopes the start date can be as early as May 9.

“It’s still up in the air,” Myers said. “We hope that much of the existing building will be down by the time the children return (to school) on August 11.”

The asbestos was found either by a district worker or by project contractors, Myers said. Orion will need another 10-12 weeks to be retired with the recent discovery. The estimated cost of the additional removal is estimated at $1.3 million, although the district has proceeds from the sale of bonds to cover the cost.

Myers said the district is also working with its Department of Nutrition Services to provide food for students who need to return to school. Details of the role of the nutrition service have not been finalized.

Myers said the asbestos discovery will not affect the opening of the new Greeley West building. Parking and landscaping of the new school will be delayed until the dismantling of the existing school is complete.

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