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Syosset HS to remain closed after asbestos discovery

The discovery of asbestos planks at Syosset High

The discovery of asbestos planks at Syosset High School prompted an evacuation of 2,000 students on Thursday and the closure of school Friday. (March 25, 2010) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Syosset High School will remain closed Friday after a district employee discovered asbestos at the building Thursday, prompting a late-morning evacuation of the school's 2,000 students.

Clean up and remediation have begun and air testing will be conducted before the school reopens April 7, district officials said. Students are off next week for spring break.

Syosset Superintendent Carole G. Hankin said in a letter to parents posted Thursday on the district Web site that the district will continue to "take every precaution to ensure that the building will be safe for the return of all students and faculty."

The district's head of facilities discovered asbestos planks by a Dumpster outside the high school after a routine clean up of the boiler room, Syosset officials said in a statement. After testing by the district's environmental services contractor confirmed the substance was asbestos, students and all personnel were evacuated within 30 minutes, around 11 a.m.

Some students said they thought the evacuation was a drill, until they saw their teachers were nervous. "That's when we knew it was serious," said Julie Baharestani, 17, a senior.

Her mother, Debbie Baharestani, said she is not worried.

"I know the administration will do everything they can to ensure the safety of the children," Baharestani said.

District officials confirmed the type of asbestos found was "friable asbestos" - asbestos that can be broken into smaller particles. Undisturbed asbestos poses little risk. Friable asbestos is of concern because fibers are more readily released into the air, and if inhaled, may cause serious illness.

Staff from Nassau County's Department of Health conferred with Syosset officials and provided on-site consultation Thursday to "ensure all necessary and appropriate steps were taken to protect the public's health," said health department spokeswoman Mary Ellen Laurain, adding that air quality tests are pending.

State Department of Education spokesman Tom Dunn said the district's actions were appropriate. "When dealing with asbestos, a conservative approach is always warranted."

All after-school and weekend activities have been canceled at the high school.

The evacuation interrupted tests for many students and added two extra days to spring break. Officials said the days off would not impact instruction.

"Three snow days already, and now two days off," said Brian Golub, 18, a senior. "There's nothing better you could ask for before spring break of senior year."

With John Valenti and

Nomaan Merchant


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