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CKMS board: ‘No evidence’ of asbestos exposure

Students resume classes at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
In this file photo from 2011, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center educator Josie Chang-Order instructs Dolores Elementary fourth-graders the craft of excavating an archaeological site in a simulated dig area in a classroom at Crow Canyon.

After finding “elevated levels” of asbestos in parts of its building, the Children’s Kiva Montessori School has moved classes out of its facility at 601 N. Mildred Road and back to Crow Canyon Archaeological Center for the second time this year.

Results from tests conducted since classes were canceled Nov. 7 now suggest that students and teachers were not exposed to asbestos, a carcinogenic material that was commonly used in the 20th century for insulation.

“There is no evidence that students, staff, and families were exposed to harmful materials,” the CKMS board said in an email to parents last week.

The CKMS board suspended classes for a week before sending students and teachers back to Crow Canyon on Nov. 14, the school’s fourth move in four months.

Schoolchildren lost four days of instruction, which CKMS must make up before summer vacation to comply with the Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 charter.

Jason Vaughn, Crow Canyon’s media specialist, told The Journal in a press release Nov. 10 that the center was “donating” space to CKMS during winter, “typically a quiet time” on the campus.

The donation is a break for CKMS, which is in financial straits, according to a recent audit and documents from the RE-1 school district.

Test results show students, teachers not exposed

The CKMS board said it was unsure when students and teachers could move back into its school because the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is now overseeing its cleanup.

As previously reported by The Journal, the CKMS board was notified by its contractor Nov. 7 that asbestos tests came back positive in areas of the school undergoing construction.

The CKMS board notified teachers and parents the same day that classes were canceled, and it followed up the next day with an email that explained concern about asbestos was behind the cancellation.

On Nov. 12, it sent an additional email including a timeline of asbestos assessments and reports regarding the Mildred Road location dating to August 2017.

Among the results was a finding this summer that no asbestos was detected in Construction Phase 1A, the part of the CKMS building that would be occupied by students and teachers.

The CKMS board notified parents on Nov. 15 that classrooms and supplies in the part of the building that had been occupied by students and teachers had been “tested, cleaned, and are clear of asbestos.”

Concerns and praise from parents

The CKMS board scheduled a special meeting for Nov. 13 for parents.

Among other concerns, parents said they were worried about another school relocation, since the Mildred Road facility might be off-limits at the end of winter, when Crow Canyon would need full use of its campus.

School board president Kelli Jackson said at the Nov. 13 meeting that the board was creating “plans A, B, C, D and E” in case students still did not have access to its own building or Crow Canyon.

Some parents expressed gratitude to the board, which for months has been dealing with concerns over enrollment, construction, a controversial head of school and asbestos.

“I just want to personally thank (CKMS board member) Stacey Weyand – I’m going to cry – for all the work you’ve put into this,” said Trena Yazzie, a parent of a CKMS student and wife of CKMS financial director Urulu Yazzie. “I know that you’ve dedicated countless of your own personal hours to this, and this very small community.”

Another parent, David Rossiter,thanked the board for transparency, which until recently was a focus of parents’ complaints. Many of the complaints singled out former Head of School Susan Likes, who resigned in September.

“Thank all of you guys for the tremendous amount of transparency that we didn’t get last year,” Rossiter said to the CKMS board and interim Head of School Alexia Hudson-McGrath. “Bottom line: kudos. Top marks. The information has been very helpful.”

One parent commented to Hudson-McGrath during the meeting that she and other parents were “on board” to help teachers at the school through the transition. The parent said that supporting the teachers was her main concern.

CKMS board member Melissa Gould emphasized a common commitment to Montessori education.

“I would just like to say that that’s what is truly remarkable about this situation ... what a Montessori community can become, and it’s shown in the parent body, the student body, the teachers, the administrators,” Gould said. “It’s really remarkable when all these people come together for common purpose and a common vision, and it’s great that that is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.”


Parents: We want to hear from you

Are you a parent with a child currently or previously attending Children’s Kiva Montessori School? We want to hear from you. Email The Journal’s education reporter, Carter Pape, at cpape@the-journal.com or call him at 970-564-6029.