Asbestos Forces Norton School To Get Creative With Classrooms

norton asbestos elementary school henri a. yelle

Henri A. Yelle Elementary School in Norton. (Kim Tunnicliffe/WBZ NewsRadio)

NORTON, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — It's the first day of school in Norton, and classes are being held in some unlikely spots for one group of students after asbestos was found in an elementary school.

Crews were replacing windows on the second floor of the Henri A. Yelle Elementary School when the asbestos was discovered last week.

Superintendent Joseph Baetta told WBZ NewsRadio's Kim Tunnicliffe he closed all three floors in the older wing of the building for safety reasons.

Then, the race was on to find alternative classroom space for all 190 fifth graders within just a few days.

"It was definitely a curve ball," Baetta said.

But they got creative, and now classes are being held in the library, gymnasium, and cafeteria.

"It'll be a little tighter, but we're able to take the sliding doors in the cafeteria so that we can actually close it down into a smaller cafeteria," Baetta said. "We can do the same thing with the gym."

Now, they have twelve makeshift classrooms. Baetta said others moved to make room, too.

"My business office moved his desk, and the director of facilities' desk, they're in the closet now so that we could open up that classroom space," he said.

The school department is working with the DEP to decide what to do about the asbestos, and they're hoping to have students back in their regular classrooms within 2-3 weeks.

That time frame will all depend on how crews end up dealing with the problem.

"Does that stuff have to come off completely? That would be a traditional Hazmat situation, or are we wrapping them?" Baetta said. "We're gonna leave that up to the consultant, the cleaning specialist, and DEP."

Baetta said he's hoping this will be a teachable moment for students.

"We want them to understand that flexibility, adaptability, and responsibility are all part of our portrait of a graduate here in Norton," he said. "This is what we want to graduate: students that adapt themselves to difficult situations."

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WBZ NewsRadio's Kim Tunnicliffe (@KimWBZ) reports

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