The School District of Philadelphia has announced plans to begin addressing the environmental issues in some 46 school buildings over the summer. The work plan is set to include lead paint remediation and clean up, HVAC repairs, and asbestos abatement, the School District said, who will work with the Philadelphia Department of Health on the project. Some construction and maintenance will also be part of the work.
“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our students,” Superintendent Dr. William R. Hite said in a statement announcing the plan. “When our students are excited to come to school because their classrooms are modern, clean spaces, they are best poised for success.”
Many of these issues have come into sharper focus due to the Inquirer’s “Toxic City” investigative series, which found environmental problems in some aging Philadelphia schools that in some cases could lead to medical issues if left untreated.
The “rigorous work schedule” to repair these issues now planned by the district will be undertaken at 46 schools that serve some 26,000 students over the summer.
Union local union Local 32 BJ District 1201 worked with the School District on updating standards and sharing them with school principals, building engineers and cleaning staff. The new cleanliness standards and guidelines are available online for the public to view, and includes clear directives for daily cleaning and maintenance of everything from classrooms to bathrooms. (View the report at https://goo.gl/4pYdCg.)
“Lead stablization” is underway now at George W. Nebinger and Andrew Jackson elementary schools and is set to begin at James Logan and Thomas K. Finletter elementary schools next month.
According to Danielle Floyd, the District’s Chief Operations Officer, the district has been working for four months to revise their lead-based stabilization protocol to “above and beyond” EPA standards, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the Philly Healthy Schools Initiative. But some of the repair work is pending more funding.
But expanding the work will cost more money. The Fiscal Year 2019 budget passed last week by City Council would bring an extra $547 million to schools over the next five years, but does not include all the funding to the School District of Philadelphia requested by Mayor Jim Kenney, in part to pay for things like building issues.
“It’s no secret that our schools are aging and need work,” Hite said in a statement. “What needs to happen now is for our elected officials and communities to unite for the sake of our students, so that we can complete more work at a faster pace. We will continue advocating for the funding we need. Our students deserve nothing less.”
The new Philadelphia Board of Education will hold its first public meeting on July 9.