Students displaced from a Huntington Beach grade school will begin returning to campus on Tuesday, more than three months after three schools were closed because of an asbestos scare.
Many of the students who attended the three campuses have been bused to schools elsewhere in Orange County at a cost of $50,000 a week while school officials struggled to deal with the asbestos concerns.
In all, the closures displaced more than 1,600 students.
On Tuesday, students in grades 3 through 5 will return to Oak View Elementary and be reunited with classmates in portable buildings.
Two other campuses, Lake View and Hope View elementary, remained closed.
Since Oak View was closed in October, more than 600 Oak View students, including kindergartners, have been attending classes at Village View Elementary, Oak View Preschool, Pleasant View School – all in the Ocean View district – and Walter Knott Elementary in Buena Park.
The district is working on a timeline for asbestos cleanup at Oak View. The potentially hazardous mineral fiber was discovered at some schools during an 11-campus modernization project that began in July.
When the schools were built decades ago, asbestos was used as fireproofing on metal beams above the ceilings. Over time, asbestos dust began to fall from the beams and settle on classroom ceiling tiles, district records show.
Rising costs caused the district board of trustees to vote last month to delay asbestos removal and modernization construction at Oak View.
According to district documents, air samples taken at Oak View in October did not contain asbestos levels above standards set in the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, which regulates how much asbestos can be present in public buildings like schools.
At a recent board meeting, several parents of Oak View students said they were worried about their children falling behind academically while attending temporary schools.
The children lack access to computers at Knott Elementary and can't practice for automated Common Core tests like their peers can, parents said.
Oak View serves a large number of English as a Second Language students and low-income families, many of whom receive free or reduced-price meals at school, according to California Department of Education data. The relocations have divided siblings and disrupted families, some of whom count on social and family services available at Oak View, teachers told the school board last month.
Special-education teacher Rhonda King said one of her second-graders was accustomed to attending Oak View with his sister, a third-grader. Now he is at Village View in Huntington Beach while his sister is bused to Buena Park.
"He tells me he misses his sister," King said. "That's not just one family, it's a lot of families."