"If it's not fit for kids, it's not fit for teachers."

Geraldine Best
Teacher, on asbestos dangers at school

King Intermediate was closed because of asbestos dust. Teachers were required to return before the school was dust-free.

Teachers win

A DOE decision may have
exposed teachers to asbestos

Teachers required to be at King Intermediate School before it was declared cleared of asbestos dust will receive two extra days' pay under an arbitrator's ruling yesterday.

The state Department of Education was ordered by arbitrator Joyce Najita to give the pay or two extra days of vacation to about 60 teachers at the Kaneohe school.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association filed a grievance after the teachers were required to return from winter break as scheduled on Jan. 11 although the school was not opened for students until Jan. 13.

The asbestos alert began in early November after workmen scraping and sanding the outside of buildings in a renovation project raised dust that spurred questions from teachers.

Testing revealed asbestos fibers in dust found in two buildings and a portable classroom. Classes were moved to other buildings on the campus. When asbestos was confirmed in three additional buildings, classes were suspended Dec. 15, three days before the winter break was to begin. A private contractor, Unitek, worked through the break to clean up the classrooms.

In January a state judge granted a teachers union motion for an injunction prohibiting the Department of Education from calling teachers back to classrooms until Kimura International laboratory gave an all-clear, said teacher Geraldine Best.

The department required teachers to report at the scheduled end of winter break. They met in the library and administration offices. Best said she did not see a signed document giving the all-clear to return to the classrooms until the day before students returned on Jan. 13.

"If it's not fit for kids, it's not fit for teachers," said Best, who raised the alert in early November after noticing the renovation crew members wearing safety masks and raising dust outside her classroom windows.

HSTA spokeswoman Danielle Lum said the union is "very pleased" with the arbitrator's decision. She said the grievance was filed as a health and safety issue. She would not discuss the details of the decision.

State Department of Education

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