Asbestos found at Berkeley Middle School in Williamsburg

Virginia Gazette

Asbestos was found in two areas at Berkeley Middle School, Williamsburg-James City County Schools officials said in a letter sent home with students Monday. 

A teacher reported insulation material coming out of a small crack behind a cabinet in Room 136 to school administrators, said district spokeswoman Betsy Overkamp-Smith. Officials had the material tested and determined it was asbestos, the letter states. The room was closed to students and staff.

"This is the first time this material has been discovered at the school. The crack most likely developed from the fastener holding up the cabinet," Overkamp-Smith, WJCC's director of public relations and engagement said in an e-mail. 

On Saturday, the district said it had licensed asbestos removal and abatement contractor cleaned and removed the material by vacuuming the space, cleaning all horizontal surfaces, sealing around the wall cabinet and taking air samples, according to the letter. 

Air tests came back clear, and did not contain any hazardous materials, school officials said.  

During the clean-up, district staff found another area where insulation material was visible in a hole at the bottom of a wall in a storage room adjacent to the girl's locker room. The second area was also scrubbed using the same cleaning method.  

Items stored in the room were cleaned, and ones that could not be cleaned were thrown out, the letter states. 

Berkeley is one of the district's older schools, and the asbestos recent tests discovered was vermiculite insulation material commonly used in schools built in the 1960s. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, asbestos-containing materials are inside many of the nation's 132,000 primary and secondary schools built between 1950 to 1959. However, the agency said the presence of asbestos doesn't necessarily present a significant health risk. 

"Berkeley is inspected triennially for asbestos and, as required by law, the school division follows an Asbestos Management Plan. This plan is available for public review in the school’s front office," the letter states. 

The letter ends with principal Amour Mickel, telling parents not to hesitate to contact her with questions. She can be reached at (757) 229-8051.  

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