Detroit City, District Move on Repairing Troubled Schools

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The City of Detroit and Detroit Public Schools have joined in a consent agreement that determines a timeline and deadlines for repairing safety and health violations in hundreds of the district’s physical plants, advises the mayor’s office. The first 26 schools that have been inspected and are still awaiting repairs are covered by the agreement.

Mayor Mike Duggan stated that he was “encouraged” that DPS has agreed to the timeline, and the city is looking forward to making progress in restoring safe environments for the children of Detroit, according to Danielle Salisbury of MLive Media Group.

After a series of “sick outs” by teachers protesting the dire condition of the school buildings, the mayor toured and then announced inspections for each of the 97 district buildings in January.

The issues listed in the agreement included rodent infestation, rodent fecal matter, broken glass, and water damaged ceilings. According to the document, many of the repairs have already been completed. The district has removed barricades, replaced windows, restored heat, fixed plumbing. and applied paint.

There is significant red tape involved in getting the repairs done. Every individual issue requires a separate inspection, a re-inspection, and a report of completion dates. Currently, 64 properties have been inspected, but the completion of the projects is expected to take four more months.

The buildings require initial reviews by the city’s Building, Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department, and inspections by the Detroit Health Department will follow.

The mayor has admitted that the city government should have intervened in the repair project sooner. Interim President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers Ivy Bailey said that the agreement was an improvement from the “Band-Aid approach that wastes a lot of money and time.”

According to a suit made by the American Federation of Teachers, the Detroit Federation of Teachers, and several parents, the district is denying students of a “minimally adequate education.”

The city has given the district more time because some of the issues, such as replacing caulk containing asbestos, has to be done by specialized environmental contractors. The extra time exemption is one of the line-items in the consent agreement, reports the Detroit Free Press’ Ann Zaniewski.

Items that will require repair that is hazardous or will necessitate a considerable outlay of money will take longer as well. Cody High School is in need of repair to the boilers in its building, which will require a contractor with the necessary skills and experience. The district will have until July 30 to complete these types of repairs.

Christine Ferretti, writing for The Detroit News, quoted from a statement issued by Mayor Duggan:

“What we wanted was a commitment from DPS with specific time lines for making each repair and a binding agreement enforceable in court if those time lines are not met.”

Another exception will be given for finishing concrete work necessary to prevent leaks in an underground storage room at Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine. An extension was granted in the event of inclement weather.

At schools that reported rodent infestations, inspections are taking place monthly by pest control contractors, states the city report. DPS spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said in a statement:

“Good progress has been made on correcting a significant number of the violations; however, there are certain issues for which the district has requested an extension to the completion date (including for total roof replacements, the ordering of materials, and the scheduling of certified contractors for specific work).”