DC teachers concerned schools won’t be ready for class Monday

School starts Monday morning in DC, but teachers say they fear some buildings won’t be ready.

School starts Monday morning in DC, but teachers say they fear some buildings won’t be ready. The DC city manager told lawmakers that contracted maintenance crews will work all weekend to make necessary repairs to heating, ventilation and air conditioning units.

After months of preparation, the teachers are ready to return to the classroom, but their union has suggested that not every school meets safety standards, reporting problems with HVAC and air circulation in some buildings.

At a training event earlier this week, physical education teacher Terrence Chabis told WTOP that he is ready to be back in person with the students at Seaton Elementary in Northwest DC.

“Everyone has concerns about, you know, the delta variant … but as long as you apply the right safety protocols, you should be fine,” he said.

But the Washington Teachers’ Union said it is clear from building walk-throughs this week that some health and safety protocols agreed in the Memorandum of Understanding with DC Public Schools (DCPS) have not been followed.

In an email, Union Executive Director Terence Ngwa told WTOP, “There are ongoing issues with HVAC and ventilation systems in some school sites that require immediate attention before schools resume Monday.”

One such school is Powell Elementary School in Northwest, which Janeese Lewis George, a Ward 4 Council member, visited as part of her school tour to assess and prioritize their maintenance.

City administrator Kevin Donahue acknowledged to council members Friday that some schools have outstanding repair orders. He told them during a phone call that the General Services Department has 24-7 employees to “solve as many work orders as possible.” However, Donahue was unable to provide an updated count of the number of work orders that needed to be fulfilled.

“Some classrooms may have spot coolers and/or window air conditioning units to relieve pressure on a school’s primary cooling system during extreme summer heat,” said Enrique Gutierrez of DCPS. “This temporary HVAC solution will not affect our improved filtration and ventilation measures in our DCPS facilities.”

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