In a more than nine-hour hearing Tuesday, most of the concerns expressed by parents, teachers and council members themselves focused on HVAC systems that are not working at all or improperly, in a time when ventilation is paramount because of COVID-19.
Council member Robert White said he’s heard of issues at 30 different schools.
“That is roughly a third of our public schools, this cannot be how we operate, this was a failure,” White said.
Council member Mary Cheh echoed those concerns.
“We know that proper air filtration and circulation is key to keeping the risk of COVID low,” she said.
The council heard from parents not only concerned about coronavirus, but also the temperature of some classrooms.
Alexandra Osinbajo said that, in one classroom she knows of, the temperature reached 84 degrees.
“These conditions would be unacceptable during normal times, as this is not a comfortable environment for learning, but with an airborne pathogen, the lack of ventilation compromises the safety of students and teachers alike,” Osinbajo said.
Vice President of the Washington Teachers’ Union, Regina Bell, told the council: “We’re in a pandemic, it’s simply inexcusable not to have working HVAC systems.”
DCPS has said massive supply issues nationwide have slowed down getting parts for needed repairs.
Keith Anderson, the director of the department of general services for the school system, spoke to the council about the issues.
“We’ve never had to deal with the supply chain in this manner, where we could actually just not get parts,” Anderson said.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson fired back: “That’s still avoiding the issue.”
“I’m not trying to avoid the issue,” Anderson said, adding that his agency is also working through a historic number of work orders never seen before.