Letter Regarding the WHS Facility

posted Oct 23, 2017, 7:20 PM by Deanne Galdston

I am writing to inform you about a facilities issue at Watertown High School.  As part of our compliance with the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), the District contracted with a licensed engineering and environmental firm to conduct comprehensive inspections of all school buildings in Watertown.  During these inspections, it was determined that the skim coat plaster at the high school contains some amount of asbestos.  While previous reports did not identify asbestos in the plaster, more recent sampling and analytical methods have improved such that the levels of asbestos in plaster can now be detected.  

Out of an abundance of caution, we are currently in the process of fully evaluating the condition of all plaster in the High School.  The final AHERA report should be completed by the end of this week.  Typically, skim coat plaster with asbestos is monitored and left intact, since containment or encapsulation is the industry-preferred management option.   Given the age of the building and the current condition of the plaster, the school department is in the process of determining the best course of action to ensure that plaster is maintained or encapsulated in a manner that prevents any future disturbance, damage, or deterioration. 

As we are not currently performing any ongoing maintenance or construction work that would disturb the plaster, our custodial staff has cleaned the rooms at the High School according to established protocols on which they have been trained.  Additionally, we have conducted air quality tests in several of the rooms where plaster is in less than optimal condition, and all have come back well within the allowable ranges as determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards (DLS).

While the AHERA report will not be finalized until later in the week, we want to be proactive and transparent regarding the information that we currently have.   In the interim, we have asked High School faculty and staff not to disturb the plaster in classrooms and to contact the custodial staff or the administration if they have any concerns.  

The health and safety of all faculty, staff, and students are of the utmost importance to me and the school department.   Following the conclusion of the evaluation by our consultants, I will communicate to the Watertown High School community what our next steps will be to address this issue.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email me or call my office at (617) 926-7700.

Thank you,

Dede Galdston, Ed.D.

Superintendent, Watertown Public Schools