Asbestos, weather delays push back start of Lawrence high schools 6 days

photo by: Mike Yoder

Lawrence High School is pictured on Nov. 6, 2015.

Story updated at 4:36 p.m. Thursday

Students at Lawrence’s high schools will get to enjoy a longer summer break because of construction delays that resulted from recent severe weather and crews uncovering additional asbestos.

The Lawrence school district announced in a news release Thursday that it will postpone the start of the school year for Free State and Lawrence high schools and Lawrence College and Career Center for six days.

The school year was scheduled to begin Wednesday, Aug. 14 for orientation and Thursday, Aug. 15 for the first full day of classes, but the high schools will now begin on Tuesday, Aug. 20 and Wednesday, Aug. 21, according to the release. Additionally, the district’s college and career center’s certified nurse aide and emergency medical science programs will begin on Aug. 19 with the rest of the center’s classes beginning on Aug. 21.

To make up for the delay, the high schools will add an extra five minutes to the school day. School days will begin at 8 a.m. instead of 8:05 a.m., with a 7 a.m. zero hour, which is an extra morning class period for certain programs. The high schools will continue to dismiss at 3:10 p.m.

The school district is currently undergoing construction improvements at both high schools. The district said the postponement was caused by “several unforeseen challenges” that have delayed building construction such as newly discovered asbestos and recent severe weather, including heavy rainfall and electrical complications associated with the May tornado.

Julie Boyle, a spokeswoman for the school district, told the Journal-World that crews found a majority of the asbestos in Lawrence High School through a pre-construction survey. School board documents show that a consultant was hired for the survey in January 2018 and in March of this year, the district approved a $112,554 bid to have a company remove materials containing asbestos at the school.

However, when construction began this summer, additional asbestos was discovered in the concrete block of a wall that was being removed from Lawrence High School, Boyle said.

“We notified an asbestos abatement company and scheduled the abatement,” Boyle said. “This delayed our construction schedule.”

Superintendent Anthony Lewis said in the news release that the school district is working with the construction teams to complete the remaining improvement projects quickly. He also apologized for the postponement causing challenges for the Lawrence community.

“We want to provide the best learning environments possible for students and staff. That means ensuring that we provide safe and welcoming spaces conducive to a successful start to the school year,” Lewis said.

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