Southwark closes after asbestos discovery

A South Philly grade school is temporarily closed due to the discovery of asbestos.

The Southwark School, at 1835 S. 9th St., is expected to be closed for three weeks as work is performed on the more than a century-old building, officials said.

Parents were notified that the school would be closed and that students of the PreK through eighth-grade school should expect to take part in virtual learning until the situation is remedied.

State Rep. Elizabeth Fielder voiced her concerns in a statement the following morning, which regarded short notice to parents.

“As a Philly public school parent and a lawmaker, I am deeply concerned,” Fiedler said. “Last night, I learned that Southwark Elementary will be closed for several weeks after the discovery of dust potentially containing asbestos, a dangerous carcinogen. This morning, students and their families were given a very short amount of time to get their belongings from the school, including laptops, books and medication. Many parents were at work, which added to an already stressful situation. Parents joined forces to help get materials for students whose parents couldn’t make it in time.

“Many of the students who will be home next week are the same students who faced an 18-month disruption due to COVID-19. Parents, alarmed that their children could have been exposed to environmental toxins, are now scrambling for information and scrambling to find childcare so they can go to work next week. Instead of focusing on helping kids grow and learn, teachers and principals at Southwark must now worry about their own health and the health of the children they care for.”

Southwark is the seventh school in Philadelphia to be closed to asbestos concerns in the past year including Universal Vare charter school in the Grays Ferry neighborhood in South Philly

“Southwark is the seventh Philadelphia school to close in the last year due to the discovery of asbestos,” Fiedler said. “These closures are the inevitable, predictable cost of decades of disinvestment in our school facilities. The physical condition of our buildings is a huge problem – bigger than any one school – that needs immediate and significant financial and logistical support. Pennsylvania has some of the oldest schools in the nation, but we also have the state dollars necessary to fulfill our overdue responsibility to remediate and repair them. Each day we choose to defer maintenance to school buildings is another day putting the health and development of our students and teachers at risk.”