On the same day University of Montana President Seth Bodnar issued a written apology to parents after the discovery of asbestos in a UM preschool, the university received tests showing asbestos contamination in a second UM child care facility.
Late Friday, the ASUM Child Care Preschool director said in an email that the Craighead Child Care facility will also close and move children to the College of Education on Monday.
UM officials said the facility does not present health hazards; they are closing it to clean it thoroughly.
Air samples at the Craighead preschool remain "consistently below detectable levels and do not present a health risk,'' UM said. But it said some wipe tests of surfaces came in higher than the federal cleanup threshold of 5,000 fibers per square centimeter.
"Although there are no studies that correlate wipe samples with health risks — even in young children — we are relocating children attending the Craighead Child Care facility starting Monday morning," said the email from the director.
The number of children who attend the center on Maurice Avenue just south of the UM campus wasn't immediately clear late Friday. The email also noted the child care center would purchase new furniture, equipment, toys and other supplies over the weekend.
Last week, UM abruptly relocated the preschool in McGill Hall after finding "unacceptable levels" of asbestos on surfaces there, in one case 80 times higher than a federal cleanup threshold for residences.
Asbestos becomes a hazard when it is airborne, and a consultant has said the air in the building is safe. However, it isn't clear how high the concentration of asbestos might have been during releases that led to deposits on tables, computers and toys.
One consultant said it's impossible to tell the frequency of releases, although he estimated people were exposed to small releases over a long period of time with a couple of large releases. In 2011, a test of the preschool came back clean.
Last Tuesday, UM sent 47 children to a new classroom at the College of Education in response to test results. Parents and others have been grilling campus officials about the situation in McGill Hall and also general campus protocols for ongoing inspections.
This Thursday at an informational meeting for occupants of McGill Hall, some parents said they wanted to hear directly from Bodnar, not UM's consultants. Some also demanded a formal apology.
Later on Thursday afternoon, Bodnar appeared at a meeting scheduled specifically for parents, and Friday, he issued the written apology.
"I want to say that I am sorry, both as a father and a colleague, for the disruption, uncertainty, and anxiety the situation has caused," Bodnar wrote in a campus communication about McGill Hall. "The safety of our campus community is extremely important, and I have directed our team to prioritize this in all of our decision-making on this issue."
Parents have been asking questions about the risks of ingestion and want to know more about asbestos in the preschool. Other McGill occupants, such as faculty, want to know about risks in their particular areas.
At a meeting this week, UM officials publicly stated the campus will take responsibility for the preschool students.
"The university will support you," UM spokeswoman Paula Short told parents last week. "The university is going to be here. And the university is going to honor its responsibility and obligation to your children and to you."
UM has posted test results on its website and is directing parents to its risk manager.
Last week after UM closed the preschool, it evacuated all of McGill Hall. Roughly 70 people worked in the building, and students attended classes there.
In Bodnar's email, he pledged UM would be proactive in campus management practices for asbestos and said it is reviewing protocols with experts. He also said a thorough cleaning of McGill would begin Friday, and faculty, staff and students may be able to occupy the building by the end of the month.
"We want to be absolutely sure that we have provided enough time for all necessary cleaning and testing," Bodnar said.
Short said the preschool will not return to McGill Hall on the same timeline and will remain in the new classroom at the College of Education.