The board of directors for the Children’s Kiva Montessori School told parents in an email Wednesday that it was temporarily closing the school because of “elevated levels” of asbestos.
The board notified parents Tuesday evening that school was canceled for the remainder of the week “due to construction concerns.”
The board followed up the next day with an email about asbestos and lead testing that was performed at the building earlier in the week. Asbestos is a carcinogenic material that was commonly used in the 20th century for building insulation.
“Preliminary results on the asbestos came back last night and showed elevated levels in two specific areas of our building currently under construction,” the board said Wednesday. “Test results for lead are still pending.”
The board said that cleaning up the asbestos and clearing the area of contaminants could take a week to several months.
“In the meantime, the Board is actively working to identify a facility that could house our school during this transition period,” the email said. “We expect to be able to provide more information both on the expected timeline and the facility search by the end of this week.”
The email Tuesday came one day after The Journal published a story that reported on construction and asbestos abatement at the school.
CKMS interim Head of School Alexia Hudson-McGrath told The Journal that Tuesday’s asbestos test results came as a surprise and that she and the board were awaiting a full report from the CKMS building corps regarding the situation, which she said could be received as soon as Thursday.
Most CKMS board members have children who attend the school. Hudson-McGrath says this is all the more reason the board would have kept students and teachers out of the building had this week’s asbestos findings been made sooner.
Prior knowledge about asbestosBefore purchasing the facility, CKMS administrators knew asbestos existed in the former Montezuma County Justice Building, at 601 N. Mildred Road, and planned to remove it.
According to an email from former Head of School Susan Likes to CKMS parent Emily Wisner, abatement at the building was nearly complete as of mid-August.
“Abatement is already complete in Phase one, and will be completed soon on Phase two,” Likes told CKMS parent Emily Wisner in the email sent Aug. 14.
The phases refer to designated areas in the building scheduled to be completed at different times. The first phase includes the part of the school that was occupied by students and teachers when they moved into the building Oct. 1. The second is scheduled to be completed by the end of March.
Likes resigned in September after multiple grievances to the CKMS board about her communication regarding school updates such as construction and staffing. One parent said Likes’ emails were “lacking in detail and ‘truthiness.’”
According to Hudson-McGrath, school administration wouldn’t have put children and teachers into the building in October if they had known what they know now.
“When the board elected to move those students into those classrooms, they did so in good faith,” Hudson-McGrath told The Journal during a phone call Thursday.
Classes during constructionCKMS held classes at 601 N. Mildred Road for 4½ weeks before vacating Wednesday. Construction crews renovated the building, which was the location of the former Montezuma County Justice Building, as students occupied completed parts of the facility.
Construction crews temporarily disabled some HVAC systems and built a plywood barrier to keep contamination from reaching students and teachers during class time.
The city of Cortez issued a demolition permit for the facility in June this year, but CKMS did not receive a construction permit until Aug. 29, more than a week after classes had begun.
Because of the delay, students and teachers did not move into the permanent facility until Oct. 1. They spent weeks doing classwork outside under tents before moving to the indoor facilities at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.
Class time construction was scheduled to continue until about Jan. 7, according to the CKMS board of directors, and perhaps as late as March 2019, when Phase 2 of construction is scheduled to be completed.
According to the CKMS board, another phase of construction will begin next summer, and the fourth and final phase will begin after July 2020.