Mody Boatright, the Corpus Christi engineer who handled the testing, said that they did indeed test for asbestos while children were in the school. However, the children were never in danger of being exposed.
He said that the type of asbestos in the school is non-friable – meaning it cannot be crushed by hand, which means the particles are not in the air. That is the concern.
“The problem with asbestos is when it is used as pipe insulation or as spray-in insulation,” Boatright said. “We don’t have any of that in Skidmore.”
Instead, it is in the floor tiles, vapor barrier inside the walls and in the eaves and roofing.
“There is no danger to anybody. There is no danger to the children at all,” he said. “There is nothing there that is friable.”
Boatright added that the presence of asbestos in a building of this age isn’t a surprise.
“Any old building is going to have asbestos in it,” he said.
Because of its durability, the compound was used until it was banned in the mid 1970s.
“They pretty well banned new asbestos materials being made,” he said.
Demolition of the building is expected in a couple of weeks, along with the removal and disposal of the asbestos.
Superintendent Dr. Brett Belmarez said that decision was made recently that keeping the old elementary school as they had initially planned would not be financially feasible.
“It was a purely, 100 percent, financially prudent decision by our school and by our district,” he said.
Belmarez said that only the main wing of the building will be torn down. Eight classrooms, an old cafeteria which was converted into music rooms, and an old homemaking room, which was converted into an art room, will remain.
The cost, Belmarez said, to maintain, cover insurance and pay for utilities at the old elementary wing, which would be empty, is between $150,000 to $200,000 per year.
The board, he said, made the decision to alter the contract with the contractor currently building the new elementary to include the demolition of the main wing of the old school. The maximum cost for this, which includes the testing for asbestos, is $150,000.
“The school district decided to go with a change order,” Belmarez said.
A key aspect of this decision is the short window, about a month and a half, that students won’t be on campus.
Belmarez said that, had the district taken bids on the demolition, it would have taken more time to complete the work because of the bidding process.
“That is the part where the district measured it out and answered it,” Belmarez said. “We would have had to spend an extra three weeks that we don’t have.
“I commend our trustees for thinking of our students’ safety and their financial prudence.”
Students will return to the campus in July for football and volleyball practice. Demolition is expected to be completed before then.
Discussion of razing the building began when the Texas Legislature cut funding to schools. S-TISD lost 10 percent of its funding. About 80 percent of the district’s funding is from the state.
Initially, the district had planned to follow the facilities study. That study recommended that the only buildings to be removed would be the portable buildings.
However, as budgets grew tighter, he said, the board voted to eliminate the wing because it wasn’t being used. The remainder of the elementary school, including the extra classrooms, should accommodate future growth.
Belmarez said that the money to pay for the demolition will come partially from the board’s decision to eliminate the optional local homestead exemption.
That decision, which received approval by all but Trustee Rick Olivares, means the district will no longer have pay a penalty of $90,000 to the state. However, it also means that residents of the district will no longer be able to claim the additional $5,000 or 20 percent, whichever is higher, exemption. But this also means a higher overall appraised value for the district, which will mean a lower debt services tax rate.
“The overall property of the district is going to go up,” Belmarez said. “The elimination of the option al homestead exemption will mean a three-cent debt services tax decrease on your tax rate.”
This optional homestead exemption is separate from the state’s homestead exemption, which no school district can alter.