Philly school buildings are dangerous and the bathrooms are worse

Philly school buildings are dangerous and the bathrooms are worse
Provided City Controller’s Office

The bathrooms at Philadelphia public schools are not up to first-world standards, the direct result of cost cutting at the School District of Philadelphia, City Controller Alan Butkovitz said Wednesday

“They made a conscious decision to leave human waste in a toilet every day,” Butkovitz said. “When you are charged with the protection of children, how can you make that decision?”

Those statements come as the controller’s office released a new report on inspections at 20 Philadelphia public schools. That report turned up electrical hazards, water damage and blocked fire exits.

At Francis Scott Key Elementary, staff from the controller’s office found exposed asbestos wrapped around a pipe in a hallway where staff and students had direct contact with it.

Fourteen of the schools had electrical hazards — at one school, staff found an open electrical 600-volt electrical closet.

Nineteen of the 20 schools had water damage, including moldy ceiling tiles and flooded mechanical rooms due to broken equipment.

And at 15 of the 20 schools, inspectors found fire hazards, including large objects blocking fire exits, missing fire exit signs and fire extinguishers that were expired, missing or not adequately charged.

The findings are likely representative of conditions at all of the district’s schools, said Deputy Controller John Thomas.

The school district, for its part, says the report re-enforces what it’s been saying for a long time: it doesn’t have enough money.

School district spokesman Fernando Gallard says the district has identified more than $4.3 billion in needed repairs.

“Our buildings should be in much better condition,” Gallard said. “We hope that the city controller uses this report to lobby city council and Harrisburg for more funding for our schools.”

Butkovitz said he was unsurprised by the findings, because the district had done little in response to his 2008 report and didn’t respond to emergency notifications his office made on this most recent round of inspections.

But he said he didn’t recall the bathrooms being so bad. He said at the district’s flagship Julia R. Masterman magnet school, janitorial services had been limited to one day per week.

“That isn’t something that happens in a first-world public facility,” Butkovitz said. “It’s totally unacceptable.”