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Ben Franklin High School, Science Leadership Academy To Return To School Building Tuesday Following Months Of Asbestos Clean-Up

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Students at Ben Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy will return to their shared school building Tuesday after millions of dollars in renovations and asbestos clean-up. This is a very exciting time for parents and students as they look forward to the new space.

The revamped campus features new heating and cooling systems, LED lighting, a new cafeteria and updated learning and common spaces at a cost of $37 million.

The entire heating system was replaced throughout the building and it's completely air-conditioned.

"I think overall, the aesthetic, the hallways, classroom, new equipment -- they're all incentives for our kids to learn," Ben Franklin teacher Marcia Hatchett said. 

Science Leadership Academy and Ben Franklin High School now feature a high-efficiency, environmentally-safe building that is now ready for students to enter.

"It's been hard for the students and parents. So it's nice to see things coming to a positive end for a new start," parent Charlene Mallard said.

The district tried to finish renovations while students were in the building but asbestos concerns forced a sudden closure for the Spring Garden campus at the beginning of October.

Once everyone was out of the building, Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite says they took advantage of the ability to remove other asbestos that wasn't a danger but wanted to make sure it was abated.

He says the district learned that it is important to address capital projects in a holistic way -- for example, removing all environmental hazards whether they pose a danger or not.

"The other thing we learned is to have a plan B and to have a place for children to go in the event that you cannot host them in the building they should be in," Hite said. "Make sure there's a space or swing space, so those are the things we learned to help address these issues throughout the system."

On Monday, teachers were setting up their classrooms and everywhere you turned, parents were there to help make it seamless.

"I'm just trying to help. The teachers have been amazing, they've been great to my kid, and so if I can help, I'm helping too," parent Alice Ryan said.

Between both schools, there are about 900 students. They were temporarily spread out across the city.

Ben Franklin students temporarily attended classes at the old Khepera Charter School building in North Philadelphia, while SLA students were attending classes at Rodeph Shalom synagogue during the renovations.

It's a very exciting time, especially for seniors that will get a chance to experience the new facility before graduating this summer.

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