In Baltimore, Maryland, the city’s only independent Jewish high school, the Shoshana S. Cardin School, recently announced that it had abandoned plans to buy part of Rosewood Center, a state-owned former mental facility on 178 acres in Owings Mills, for the school’s 2011-2012 school year.
The Cardin School acquired purchase rights from the Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore in November of 2007 to buy 55 acres of land to construct a new school, which it had hoped would be completed in the fall of 2011. The parcel was considered highly desirable due to its proximity to Jemicy Upper School (a prestigious prep school), Garrison Forest School, and the Torah Institute of Baltimore.
The Rosewood Center began life in 1888 as the Asylum and Training School for the Feeble Minded, and changed its name to the Rosewood State Training School in 1912. In 1961, it became the Rosewood State Hospital, and in 1969 – when the departments of health and mental hygiene merged – it became the Rosewood Center.
In July of 2009, after patients abuse complaints began to surface and multiply, the governor of Maryland ordered the facility closed, leaving behind a campus comprised of many abandoned, old, dilapidated buildings, some of which are rumored to be haunted.
The Cardin School’s Rosewood purchase has been set aside due to an environmental study that shows large amounts of asbestos in both the land and the Kanner Building, which was to be the interim site for the school until a new building could be erected. According to Head of School Barbie Prince, the implications of acquiring the 55-acre parcel and building – at least in terms of asbestos remediation costs – are formidable.
Asbestos, a silicate-type mineral mined and widely used during most of the last century in insulative products, floor tiles and sheet flooring, acoustical ceiling tiles and sprays, and even plaster and drywall patch, is the only known cause of mesothelioma, a particularly insidious and lethal form of cancer which kills about 2,500 Americans every year.
Mesothelioma arises when microscopic asbestos fibers lodge in mesothelial tissue, which surrounds the heart, lungs and abdominal organs. Though occurring most commonly as pleural mesothelioma (or in the lungs, in about 75 percent of cases), it can also arise around the heart (pericardial mesothelioma) in about one percent of cases, and in the abdomen, or peritoneal mesothelioma, in about 10 percent to 20 percent of cases.
All forms of mesothelioma are known for their long dormancy, which can last up 50 years or more, before producing symptoms severe enough to make victims seek medical help. Unfortunately, by the time mesothelioma is diagnosed, most of the damage is done, and most physicians commonly give patients about a year to live.
This prognosis improves with earlier detection, when cancers are less invasive, but up to now earlier detection has been limited by the diagnostic techniques available. A new test, which uses protein markers from the pleural fluid that ordinarily accumulates around mesothelioma to diagnose the disease, promises not only earlier but more accurate diagnoses.
The Cardin School currently leases space from Temple Oheb Shalom on Heights Avenue, as it has since the school opened its doors in September of 2003. Prince, who admitted the extent of asbestos contamination at the proposed purchase site isn’t even known, has said that the school will revisit its Rosewood purchase plan if the state is willing to remove asbestos from the property at its own expense.
Expansion plans for Stevenson University have also been put on hold due to the asbestos findings at Rosewood. Asbestos, when found, must be removed in a precise, time-consuming manner by trained and licensed asbestos remediation professionals. However, the state has indicated some willingness to help foot the asbestos cleanup bill for the university – a position strongly supported by Senator Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County). The same can not be said for the Cardin School.
If the state does not cooperate in the cleanup venture, Prince says there is another, 22-acre site within the Rosewood complex whose option to buy doesn’t expire until 2014. It is unknown whether an environmental study has been done on that parcel as well.
Sources: Shoshana S. Cardin school website, Brigham and Womens Hospital, Baltimore Sun, ForgottenUS.com, Balitmore Business Journal