According to findings from the office of City Controller Alan Butkovitz, conditions within school buildings in the School District of Philadelphia show hazardous issues in dire need of correction.
Inspectors from Butkovitz’s office visited 20 schools in the district between October and March, finding issues at all schools including missing exit signs, hallways and fire exit doors blocked by large objects, and permanently clogged toilets, among other problems. Reports from Central High School include the existence of cockroaches in the restrooms.
“The School District needs to provide a safe, sanitary learning environment for everyone, including our great teachers who must endure these conditions daily,” said City Controller Alan Butkovitz in a statement.
A report was issued based on the findings, showing a number of issues commonly found among schools in the district. Electrical hazards, including exposed wiring, were found in 70% of the schools visited, 95% had water damage such as mold, and 75% showed clear fire hazards including missing or expired fire extinguishers.
Some cases were so hazardous, such as the exposed wiring which held a 600-volt charge found in an unlocked closet at Dimner Beeber Middle School, that inspectors tried to intervene on the spot.
A prior review of district schools performed in 2008 resulted in 2 of the schools being moved to new locations. Despite the new homes for Samuel S. Fels High School and Juniata Park Elementary School, both schools still showed unsafe conditions in the new inspection, writes Alison Burdo for The Philadelphia Business Journal.
According to Engineer Marc Orgovan, a number of the issues were found in hallways rather than individual classrooms, making it unclear how many students were actually affected by the problems.
Despite numerous attempts to contact them by Butkovitz’s office in regards to the situation, officials for the School District of Philadelphia have not returned his calls.
“You’ve got kids in Philadelphia neighborhoods, and they can’t even go to the bathroom because of what they’re going to see … they’ve got to be worried that, if they touch something on the wall, it’s going to electrocute them,” said Butkovitz, who compared bathroom conditions to those in India and other developing countries.
District spokesman Fernando Gallard did say more funding was needed in order to correct the situation, adding, “our maintenance budget has declined. There’s no surprises here.”
Gallard went on to say that the controller was welcome to help lobby the state for the additional funds for maintenance within the district. A total of $23.9 million was spent last year, but the district is hoping for $159 million this year in order to rehire staff members, including custodians, that were lost due to an increased number of dismissals that have occurred since 2010.
The district hopes to release its own facilities condition assessment this year, which will look into the conditions of all its buildings.