By Denise Dick
Despite the presence of asbestos in the building, the Diocese of Youngstown assures parents that Cardinal Mooney High School is safe and will be ready for faculty and students this fall.
Nicholas Wolsonovich, superintendent of schools for the diocese, said that when Bishop George V. Murry announced in late June he was reconsidering his decision to keep the school in Youngstown because of the cost of asbestos remediation, people started wondering and asking about the building’s safety.
“We’re reassuring them that the building is safe,” he said. “It’s OK to be operated and occupied.”
Bishop Murry is out of town and couldn’t be reached.
The diocese hired the EA Group of Cleveland to conduct air-quality tests, and results showed the air quality exceeds requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
All buildings constructed at the time Mooney was built, which was in 1956, contain asbestos, Wolsonovich said.
“Federal and state law requires that we manage asbestos in a certain way, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
Asbestos is in the pipe insulation, floor tiles and ceilings.
“We’re addressing all of those issues — and have been addressing them — and making sure nothing is overlooked,” Wolsonovich said.
Last year, Mooney officials began exploring whether to renovate the school building or construct a new school in southern Mahoning County. Initial reports pegged the new construction cost at $25 million with the renovation at $18 million.
Mooney’s board of directors recommended moving, but on June 4, Bishop Murry announced the school would remain on Erie Street on the city’s South Side.
About three weeks later, though, the bishop said he was reconsidering, citing the cost of asbestos remediation.
“It’s once you start renovating that you start disturbing asbestos [and] it becomes a huge issue in terms of cost,” Wolsonovich said.
The bishop appointed a committee including a parent, a pastor and people with expertise in Catholic school mission, education, finance and building construction, to review information regarding the potential Mooney renovation.
That committee is to report to Bishop Murry by July 31.
If the recommendation from the committee is not to move, and the bishop reaffirms his earlier decision, the president and board will be asked to begin a capital campaign to raise money for the necessary renovations.
If the committee’s recommendation is to relocate the school to the suburbs and it’s approved by the bishop, the bishop will ask the school president and board of directors to conduct a feasibility study to determine whether there are sufficient resources to build a new school.