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Asbestos in 9 schools no concern: Hall

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Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall discusses plans for new school construction with the Wilson County School Board, renovation of the old Lebanon High School, and "asbestos remediation" at the old LHS. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post

Several Wilson County schools have asbestos in their buildings. However, Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall says it isn't dangerous to the health of students or staff.

Online sources back him up. Asbestos is only dangerous if it's in the form of dust or powder and is inhaled, according to asbestos websites.

These sites also say that asbestos was even used for tablecloths in restaurants at one time. Because it's fireproof, it was used for flooring, insulation and roofing material as well.

When many homes were heated by wood stoves, most of the fireproof mats used under the stoves were also asbestos.

Then in the 1970s, it was discovered that workers who had handled asbestos were prone to a type of lung cancer called mesothelioma.

When testing and further study showed that cancer was related to inhaling asbestos dust, the material was banned by the federal government in 1977.

Removal at old LHS to cost $479.9k

The old Lebanon High School is scheduled to have the asbestos in the building removed and safely disposed of in the next two or three months, according to a $479,900 "asbestos remediation" contract with Aegis Environmental which was approved at the November meeting of the Wilson County School Board.

Hall said that asbestos was used in many buildings constructed before 1977, which he said could also include many county government buildings such as the courthouse. However, Wilson County Director of Operations Robert Baines, who's responsible for the county buildings, could not be reached for comment.

Nine schools being monitored

Some schools in the county still have the asbestos and are being monitored under a state-mandated program, Hall added.

The nine schools which are being monitored are Carroll-Oakland, Gladeville, Lakeview, Southside, Tuckers Crossroads and Watertown Elementaries, and Watertown, West Wilson and Mt. Juliet Middle Schools.

Hall emphasized that there have been no health issues reported at any of these schools and all continue to pass the safety monitoring required by the state.

As money becomes available, the other school buildings will also have all asbestos removed, according to Hall, but it's safe as long as it's not disturbed. It only presents a risk when it's being removed.

The removal at the old LHS is being done as part of renovation and remodeling to allow the building to be used for Central Office space and adult education.

The adult high school and the GED school will be in the back section of the building, with the school board offices and meeting rooms taking up most of the rest of the area, Hall said.

Space for election records

There will also be training and meeting rooms, plus school archives storage space. The Wilson County Election Commission has signed an agreement to use two rooms for its archives as well.

Special education, school nutrition, finance, and Youth Links will also have office space in the building.

The project to convert the old LHS building into new administrative offices and adult education space was approved to cost a total of $14.5 million in the 2015-16 school year budget adopted by the school board in July.

The entire project is scheduled to be completed in one year. "The goal is to be in the building by this time next year," Hall said.

Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at cewrites@yahoo.com.

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asbestos, health, Lebanon, Lebanon High School, Mickey Hall, safety, Wilson County School Board, Wilson County Schools
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