Questions abound after lead and asbestos problems revealed in four Scranton schools

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Questions, concerns and in some cases, downright anger from parents and students in the Scranton School District.

Lead and/or asbestos problems in their schools has forced four schools to close. Prescott Elementary School is now among them until further notice. Parents Eyewitness News spoke with say they understand that problems do come up in all school districts, especially with the older buildings.

But what has many people angry is the fact that these problems, especially lead contamination was identified four years ago and nothing was done about it. Eyewitness News went to the administration building looking for answers.

Some parents were unaware that their child’s school was closed due to asbestos and/or lead concerns in the Scranton School District Thursday morning. Hazmat crews are now at Robert Morris Elementary School, Francis Willard Elementary, Prescott Elementary and the Northeast Intermediate School.

Air testing and water quality tests are underway. So is work to fix the problems. But many people are asking, especially when it comes to the lead contamination, why is it such an emergency now when water testing in 2016 showed elevated levels of lead in some of the schools.

“To think this is a problem that might have been left unresolved is frustrating, disappointing. That this is certainly not the way we want to operate today,” Scranton school board president Katie Gilmartin said.

Gilmartin was not on the board when the 2016 lead results were released to the public. She does not know what happened.

“Because there is no documentation we don’t know whether something was done or not done,” Gilmartin said. “It is impossible to believe there’s no documentation. That’s what we’re finding in a lot of scenarios with the district.”

Now Eyewitness News made several attempts to request an on-camera interview with the superintendent about the ongoing situation. Eyewitness News did receive a news release at about 2:15 p.m. Thursday and once again asked her assistant for an on-camera interview and were told she was too busy and would get back to us.

The asbestos and lead concerns in the Scranton School District have people in the city talking. Eyewitness News stopped by Antonio’s Pizza. The owner says he was stunned by the news.

“They have to do something with the school. They have to do it you know no matter what the cost,” Antonio Fiorillo said.

In the news release sent by Superintendent Melissa McTiernan, she stated that the district is working with its environmental teams to make sure that all problems are resolved and only then will they be reopened.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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