Days After Asbestos Air Scare, Falling Ceiling Closes Pinelands Regional High School
LITTLE EGG HARBOR — It's not the air that has closed Pinelands Regional High School, but the danger of screws falling from the ceiling.
The high school is undergoing a major renovation, which includes roofing work. The schools were closed last week to test the air quality in the schools after concerns about asbestos. A roof project was blamed for causing tiles to fall from the ceiling and contaminating the schools’ air.
Classes resumed on Tuesday after the tests concluded that the high school was safe for occupancy.
But after classes were canceled again Friday at both the high school and junior high school, parents packed a Friday afternoon meeting with interim superintendent Dr. Cheryl Stevenson, who announced that high school students will now attend classes at the next-door junior high school in split sessions with junior high students. They will also take some classes online.
Standing in front of a screen with a picture of a screw, Stevenson said: "This is the problem that we have currently in the building."
It's one of thousands of screws in the ceiling that will have to be checked.
She explained that a student reported to administrators that the screw fell from the ceiling.
"We are trying to figure out what happened and whether or not it was an isolated incident. It was a roofing screw. It was first noticed on Thursday in the afternoon," Stevenson said in an email.
Many questions went unanswered from parents about what will happen next week. Principal Shaun Barin said Friday's meeting was focused on academics and how to best continue the school year. He promised that every concern raised by parents, ranging from lockers to accommodating parent schedules to spring break, would be considered and addressed at another parent meeting next week.
"We got a lot of great feedback from the parents and we will be working to address their concerns and suggestions," Stevenson wrote in her email.
She said students will receive the state required minimum of four hours of classroom instruction daily, but admitted it's not an ideal situation.
The high school has 815 students while 802 attend the junior high school across the street.
The immediate plan for Pineland students:
- Monday: High school students (grades 10-12) will remain home and the junior high will be open for junior high school students (grades 7-9).
- High School students will complete continuing education assignments using their teachers' Google Classroom.
- Tuesday: High School students will report to the Junior High School. Junior High School students will remain home and complete continuing education assignments using their teachers' Google Classroom.
- Wednesday: Split scheduling. Grades 10,11,12 go in the morning and 7,8,9 go in the afternoon. Times are to be determined. There will be four 1-hour blocks of classes per day. The classes will rotate on an A/B block scheduling basis. This will continue indefinitely.
- Vocational classes will remain as scheduled. Vocational students should report to the high school parking lot as normal.
Debra Sloan, whose 14-year-old son has autism, went into the meeting concerned because the split schedule does not follow his established individualized education plan. Sloan did not feel her concerns were addressed.
"They did say they are exploring options for special-needs students. It is very frustrating because they also stated they can amend IEPs due to construction failures. I am going to find out if that is legal as soon as possible, but hope they will instead meet the needs of these students," Sloan said in an email.
She shared a concern expressed by several other parents at the meeting about working parents who go to work in the morning and not having class start until the afternoon.
"My child and many of these kids need 24/7 supervision and cannot go home hours early than their scheduled school times, as we work full time and have no help during the day, nor can we afford to hire additional care," Sloan wrote.
"This has been a big puzzle to put together and the administration bonded and worked well to address the issue with compassion and a focus on safety and continuing education." Stevenson said in her email.