Daycare at UM file

In spring 2019, preschoolers were moved from the facility at McGill Hall at the University of Montana after test results for surface asbestos came back higher than anticipated. The campus daycare reopened this week after remediation of the building was completed.

The University of Montana Foundation is crowdfunding for $10,000 in a campaign to replace items for a preschool being cleaned of asbestos contamination.

The ASUM Child Care Preschool, run by the Associated Students of the University of Montana, abruptly moved children out of the McGill Hall facility after the detection of high levels of asbestos on surfaces, including on items children touch. UM also subsequently relocated the Craighead Child Care Facility off of the main campus to clean it for asbestos as well.

ASUM Child Care Preschool director Vicki Olson said Monday the preschool is operating out of the College of Education and counts this summer 66 children from newborns to 5-year-olds. She said UM is in the process of cleaning the child care facility in McGill, and she anticipates moving all of the children into that space in July on a permanent basis.

In late January, UM removed children from the McGill preschool, and the university bought some new supplies for the day care center, such as tables and shelves. But Olson said some items need replacement.

"They're not things that you can sustain for very long in a child care program," Olson said. "So basically, we need tables. I think our chairs are good. (We need) shelves built to last.

"We'll need to buy a lot more educational toys because we've lost all of that as well."

The UM Foundation website, https://crowdfunding.supportum.org/campaigns/provide-replacement-items-for-um-child-care-preschool, notes the campaign had raised $665 to date out of the $10,000 goal with 27 days left in the effort.

"Thank you for providing developmentally appropriate learning environments for the children in ASUM Child Care Preschool," said the website. 

UM has paid $300,000 in cleanup costs to date for McGill Hall including for abatement and consulting, according to the finance office. Additionally, UM paid all day care parents who requested reimbursement for children's personal items that needed to be replaced; seven parents filed reimbursement requests, and UM paid them all for a total of $898, according to UM.

UM representatives earlier agreed that asbestos found in the McGill preschool appeared to have come from the air system as the result of a "long term" degradation. Olson said workers have torn out the air system and need to install another one, and the preschool in McGill has been stripped and cleared.

"Now they have to put in new flooring. They have to redo the walls," Olson said.

She said the McGill preschool space has adequate capacity to accommodate its previous students in addition to the ones who had attended the Craighead site. She said the plan is to split spaces in half in order to run two classes and also have a separate room for infants.

Asbestos is unsafe when it is airborne, and exposure to asbestos fibers can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and other lung diseases. The latency period for developing the illnesses can be as little as 10 years or as long as 40 years.

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