Yesterday morning, I and several of my Council colleagues met with leaders of DC Public Schools (DCPS) and of the Department of General Services (DGS), which is responsible for DCPS facilities maintenance. We all know that every student and staff member deserves a school that is comfortable, safe, and conducive to learning, and I have consistently made school facilities a focus of my time as committee chair with oversight jurisdiction for DGS.
The purpose of our meeting was to get a report on campus security required by the Back-to-School Safely emergency bill that the Council unanimously passed last month. DCPS and DGS informed us of significant security-focused repairs that have already taken place and others that will be complete before students set foot back on campus. Unfortunately, there is still disagreement between Council and the Mayor’s administration over what gets categorized as a “high priority” work order in some important contexts, and I will continue to fight to ensure all students and teachers have the safest possible facilities. We must be clear that broken door locks, exterior doors that don’t shut consistently, incomplete public address systems, and aging security systems are not acceptable and must be urgently addressed.
On the subject of HVAC maintenance and hot classrooms, DGS told my Council colleagues and I that they anticipate only two campuses will have whole-school cooling challenges next week upon students’ return. I asked whether DGS has enough window units available on hand today to rapidly install on day one of school if teachers report any new hot classrooms, and DGS said they did. But the real test of whether our current system is improving and meeting student and teacher needs will be what we see on Monday, when the school year begins, and throughout the year.
I will not stop amplifying the voices of parents and teachers who are the ones experiencing our schools every day, and advocating for urgent maintenance, but it is very clear that we all have more work to do to ensure a healthy, functioning school maintenance system.