PS 186’s faulty lights to be fixed by the fall

One Bensonhurst school is on the fast track to remediation.

According to Councilmember Vincent Gentile, the old, faulty lighting fixtures at P.S. 186 that are filled with PCBs will be replaced by the time classes start again this fall, not by 2015 as previously announced.

Bayan Cadotte, principal of the school located on the corner of 76th Street and 19th Avenue, said that there has been a lot of concern with the lighting fixtures that contain Polychlorinated Biphenyls or PCBs going out because of the safety issues as well as amount of time being taken from classroom work.

The school has been having evacuation drills in the event of smoking ballasts, which signal potential leakage of PCB, a banned carcinogenic chemical that was used in lighting fixtures until the late 1970s and has been found in several schools citywide. Previously, the Department of Education said that schools with PCBs would be remediated by 2015.

Cadotte said that the Fire Department had to be called twice in the past two weeks for smoking ballasts in classrooms.

“We very concerned about the safety of all children and staff,” she said.

Cadotte said she has been in contact with the United Federation of Teachers, District 20 Superintendent Karina Costantino, the school’s network leader and custodial representatives regarding the issue.

“We were cleared for air quality readings. However, every so often, lights keep going out and flickering, causing us to reroute children from room to room. It causes a disruption,” Cadotte said.

She added that many of the students suffer from asthma and allergies, which are made worse by the PCBs. Some parents are opting to keep students home.

“It’s not fair for them to be deprived of a day of education because of things like this,” Cadotte contended.

Gentile was one of those who put pressure on the DOE to speed up the remediation process. “The DOE has committed to removing all lighting fixtures that could contain PCBs within 10 years,” he said. “Ten years is 10 lifetimes when it comes to our children and their safety! Now instead of waiting until next summer, we will get this done by the fall of 2013.

“I continue to work with the DOE and the UFT in making sure parents and administrators have a better understanding of where their school falls in terms of the DOE’s plans,” Gentile went on. “We cannot sit on our hands and wait for things to happen. We need to be proactive – not reactive.”

Cadotte said that she was “thrilled” with the news.

“This is definitely a positive thing. It’s a safety measure to assure that this is a comfortable, safe place,” she said.

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