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Clifton Residents Say Plan to Close School Ignores Environmental Concerns

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By Jonathan Wilson

In Virginia, residents in Fairfax County's Clifton area say a proposal to close their local elementary and build a new school several miles away ignores serious environmental concerns.

A plan put forward by Fairfax County Public Schools calls for closing Clifton and building a new elementary next to the existing Liberty Mill Middle School.

Tom Van Blaricom is the CEO of an environmental consulting company and says the Liberty Mill site sits on soil containing asbestos.

He says building there could be both more expensive and more dangerous than the district thinks.

"The danger with naturally occurring asbestos is during the construction process -- that is when the fibers become airborne and migrate," Van Blaricom says.

But school board member Liz Bradsher says the district knows exactly how to deal safely with the site, if it decides to build there.

She says Van Blaricom, the father of a Clifton student, is grasping at straws.

"Sometimes when people are in a corner, they try to look at the most sensationalized piece of information they can find, and I think that was one of them," Bradsher says.

District administrators say Clifton is losing enrollment and needs extensive renovations -- making it too expensive to keep open.

The board is expected to make a decision next week.

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