Asbestos discovered at Vare

Photo: Google Maps
Photo: Google Maps

Asbestos has been discovered at a South Philly charter school.

Universal Vare Charter School at 2100 S. 24th Street in Grays Ferry sent out a letter to parents on Friday stating that asbestos fiber release episodes were identified during a required routine three-year inspection conducted by the School District of Philadelphia under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act. 

A fiber release episode is any uncontrolled or unintentional disturbance of asbestos containing material resulting in a visible emission, and which must be addressed prior to re-occupancy. 

As a result, the Universal Vare Building will remain temporarily closed and students will take part in virtual instruction. 

Universal Vare provides schooling at the former Edwin H. Vare Junior high School, which was built in 1924. The three-story, 17 bay brick building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

School officials said work is ongoing and portions of the building are still being assessed and the complete scope of asbestos abatement needs will be determined over the next few days. 

“While the work is ongoing, the district and Universal Vare continue to work together to complete the necessary assessments to reopen Universal Vare, as quickly as possible to return students to their classrooms,” Superintendent/CEO Dr. Perry Nixon said in the letter. “It is important to note that the identification of ACMs, even if damaged, does not always necessitate an emergency response. However, the plaster damage identified above the ceiling tiles on the second floor, including the IMC space, requires the building to be closed. The three-year inspection is continuing while the building is closed to identify any additional areas of asbestos damage.”

Currently, Vare students are in the midst of completing the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments, with the Math and Science assessments remaining. Universal has made arrangements to shuttle students to its high school building, Universal Audenried at 3301 Tasker Street, to complete their assessments over the next two weeks. 

Universal Schools said it will provide an update early next week on the status of the Universal Vare building.