Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights has been ordered closed on Monday and Palisades Charter High School will remain shut down, possibly through Tuesday, while workers continue to remove cancer-causing asbestos from both campuses, Los Angeles school district officials announced Saturday.
The closure of 4,000-student Roosevelt High School comes after school environmental investigators found asbestos in its main administration building, which also houses 18 science and computer studies classrooms.
Because closure of so many classrooms would displace about 600 students per period, school district officials met Saturday and decided to close the entire school for up to two days to give environmental workers ample time to remove the asbestos.
"The asbestos is throughout the building," Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman Hilda Ramirez said of the administration center. "It is the spray-on kind, which is much more difficult to remove. Asbestos abatement teams are there working throughout the night."
The rare school closures come as inspectors worked through the weekend conducting emergency checks on as many as 30 more schools, bringing to 150 the number of campuses that have been checked since late last week. All the schools have been undergoing construction work that may have disturbed asbestos fibers, which can become lodged in the lungs and cause cancer.
School officials have promised to suspend any contractors found to be in violation of asbestos policies. The district's Facilities Division began the process Saturday of reviewing the work of contractors involved in the asbestos hazards.
Ramirez said the suspensions "could begin as early as Monday morning."
The temporary closure of Roosevelt--one of the largest high schools in the Los Angeles Unified system--is causing logistical nightmares for the district.
Most large schools have a computerized system that automatically telephones the homes of students to provide them with important announcements via a recorded message. But that computer system is housed in the administration building, along with student records. No one is allowed into the building to even retrieve a phone list.
"There is no way for us as an administration to call them," said Ramirez. "We are relying on word of mouth" and phone trees in which word is passed from parent to parent, and teacher to teacher. Parents and students can call (213) 625-4000 for recorded information.
Some school staff will be on campus Monday to assist those who show up.
"We are hoping to get back to the business of teaching and learning on Tuesday, to get back to normal," said Roosevelt Principal Henry Ronquillo. "Our main concern is the safety and welfare of the students and staff."
Meanwhile, district officials also announced that Palisades Charter would remain closed Monday and perhaps Tuesday while asbestos abatement continued.
School district officials had anticipated reopening the school, which was closed Friday. But by Saturday they decided to take "extraordinary measures" to be certain that the cleanup work was done properly and completely, Ramirez said.
The district will hire outside experts to review the cleanups before any buildings are reoccupied, Ramirez said.
The district was notifying Palisades administrators, parents and teachers over the weekend of the continued closure.
In a related development, officials said they planned to meet with Palisades parents Monday at Paul Revere Middle School to discuss the situation.
The meetings will begin at 4 and 7 p.m.
Besides Palisades and Roosevelt, asbestos has been detected in seven other schools, where contamination is limited to one building, classroom or other room. They are:
Hamilton High School on the Westside, Columbus Elementary in Canoga Park, Woodlawn Elementary in Bell, Century Park in Inglewood, Monte Vista Elementary in Highland Park, and Washington Prep High School and Virgil Middle School, both in Los Angeles.