Christopher Maher

Alice Echo-News Journal

SAN DIEGO – A former San Diego school board president is raising questions about the impending demolition of the old Bernarda Jaime Junior High School and its potential impact on the community.

Ashley Barrera, who served on the board for 16 years and was board president until he lost a bid for re-election in 2006, has been questioning whether the demolition of the old school will cause asbestos used in the old school’s construction to become airborne and present a danger to the surrounding residential area.

Barrera said that while he was on the school board in the mid-1990s there had been a push to renovate the old building and use it again as a campus, or as an administration building. Those efforts were abandoned, however, when the board learned the building had been constructed with asbestos products, and at that time the board decided the removal of the asbestos according to federal guidelines was too expensive.

“When I saw this in the paper, that was the first thing that came to my mind,” Barrera said. “So the first thing I did was call (Superintendent Luis) Pizzini and let him know that asbestos existed in the roof and also probably in the tiles. He assured me that someone prior to him being superintendent had removed the asbestos.”

Barrera said he supports the building of the new school and its location, he just wants to make sure it is being done “in the right way.”

“I guess it was our board, before we left, that was able to secure the funds from the state,” Barrera said. “I have no problem with that.”

Pizzini said last week he had discussed the matter with Barrera, and had informed Barrera that the demolition project presented no danger to the community.

Pizzini provided a copy of a letter from Ron Greenberg, a representative of Astex Environmental Services, to Roland Perez, with the architect firm Kell Munoz Architects, in which the asbestos was discussed.

In that letter to the district’s architects, dated March 28, 2008, Greenberg wrote the asbestos had been removed, and the building was “safe for re-occupancy.”

According to the letter, the removal was done by a company named Bexar Environmental, Inc. and, although no timeframe for the removal was listed, the building now meets minimum requirements for asbestos exposure mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s guidelines.