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Parents Not Told About Asbestos At Gainesville School

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GAINESVILLE (CBSDFW.COM) – Sandra Sanchez sits on her steps as her three little kids play in the front yard.  She’s lived in Gainesville for six years.  The mother says she does everything she can to protect her little ones.  She expects the same when her 5-year-old is at school.

“I want my kid to be safe knowing I’m sending him to school to learn and to be safe,” says Sanchez.

Her son Angel goes to Edison Elementary school in Gainesville.   His class was among three flooded last month after a toilet overflowed.  “I had known it was flooding, but I thought it was taken care of,” says Sanchez “I thought he would be back in his classroom by now.”

Students like Angel were moved to other rooms, but it was a discovery after the flood that has parents worried.  A crew ripping up carpet found asbestos.  “We didn’t really know what was under there,” says Tom Zimmerer who is Gainesville Independent School District’s Chief Financial Officer.

Under the damaged carpet there is old tile and under the tile there’s asbestos.  Zimmerer says since the asbestos wasn’t disturbed there was no danger.  “It has to become dust to be airborne that’s when it’s dangerous and we didn’t let it get there,” says Zimmerer.

The district immediately notified an expert, which is required by law.  But what it didn’t do was tell parents.  Some angry parents want to know why they weren’t told and why the school remained open.  “They should tell us. I would want to know,” says Sanchez.

Jacob Lovato echoes Sanchez and says he at least expected a letter sent home.  “Big concern right there with my little sister going there,” says Lovato.

When CBS 11 News asked why parents weren’t notified Zimmerer said, “Probably a goof up on our part.  Yes we should have notified parents in this case we didn’t.”

The Environmental Protection Agency confirms that the asbestos likely poses no danger to the kids, but tells us districts are required to notify parents, teachers and employees about their asbestos management plan and any action taken.

The district says the student handbook will now include the districts asbestos plan.

CBS 11 News has also learned that the Texas Department of State Health Services plans on making a visit to make sure the district is following proper procedures in its cleanup which is expected to be completed in a few weeks.

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