City finds heat, electric issues, rodents at DPS sites

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mold and rodent abatement, and heating and electrical repairs are among the corrective actions being ordered for several ailing Detroit Public Schools buildings, according to inspection documents released Monday.

The findings, along with calls to replace peeling paint, broken glass and water-damaged ceiling tiles, were outlined in the first wave of building inspection reports completed in an ongoing inspection of all the district’s buildings plus Detroit charter schools, to be completed by spring.

The inspections began Jan. 12 at Spain Elementary Middle School, where an inspector listed 16 violations including damage to the ceiling, wall and floor of the gymnasium, rodents, loose door frames, missing floor tiles, broken glass, water damage and mold. The fixes must be made on or before Feb. 16, the correction order says.

At Spain, a separate health inspection conducted by the city’s health department, assisted by DPS’ environmental division, found mold growing under wood flooring in the gym, with possible diffusion of mold spores throughout the building. Evidence of vermin infestation, including fecal matter and carcasses, was seen in various rooms.

Operators must verify action is being taken to stop the mold spores from affecting air quality and that the “vermin infestation must be mitigated,” according to the health department inspection report.

The report says if the district fails to properly repair the facility in a “timely manner,” the health department will recommend that the facility be closed and its certificate of occupancy be revoked.

Earlier Monday, Mayor Mike Duggan said the inspections turned up a “mixed bag” of findings and that the city has instructed the school district to act promptly.

“I have been very clear with DPS: claiming that you are short of money is not an excuse for not making the building and health codes in Detroit,” Duggan said during an unrelated Monday news conference. “We don’t accept that as a reason you can’t do it. So, we are going to take all legal means necessary to enforce the building codes and enforce the health codes.”

The first 11 school buildings also include: A.L. Holmes Elementary-Middle School, Benjamin Carson High School, Blackwell Institute, J.E. Clark Preparatory Academy, Cody schools, Detroit International Academy, Dossin Elementary-Middle School, Greenfield Union Elementary-Middle School, Osborn schools and Ronald Brown Academy.

With 30 violations, Cody also needs to take action on rodent abatement as well as roof repairs, mold remediation, plumbing fixes and clearing of storage to free up restricted paths for emergency exiting. The school must also “restore boilers to working condition,” the correction order notes.

Osborn had 19 violations. The high school’s inspection turned up the need for multiple roof repairs, replacement of missing and broken floor tiles, a kitchen roof leak, defective handrails, an inoperable elevator and broken windows.

At Blackwell, officials must replace water-damaged ceiling tiles and rid the building of rodents. While at Ronald Brown Academy, the inspectors noted peeling paint and broken glass and ordered that a heating ventilator be restored.

Meanwhile, Ben Carson High School was inspected on Jan. 14 and has a list of 17 code concerns, ranging from replacement of stained or missing ceiling tiles to floor, stairwell, elevator and sink and faucet repairs.

Clark Elementary has 13 code problems. The report notes rodents, peeling paint, water damage, inoperable lights in a second-floor restroom and the auditorium, a leaking radiator and an inoperable drinking fountain.

The international academy is being ordered to repair defective gymnasium floor covering, restore heat to the girls’ locker room and repair a leaking roof drain over its gymnasium and lunchroom as well as water damage in the library.

An inspector also ordered rodent abatement at Dossin, and noted maintenance violations related to floor covering, ceiling tile and plaster in Greenfield Elementary. Holmes had defective electrical service, water damage, a water leak and a loose pipe in a boys’ restroom.

Each building must obtain a certificate of compliance, according to the orders, all initiated this month.

The results come after the mayor earlier this month announced the city had launched the citywide inspection program for all buildings in response to complaints by teachers about health and safety problems.

The inspections, which began at Spain Elementary Middle School, will be completed by the end of the month in the 20 DPS school buildings believed to be most problematic, and all 97 of the district’s school buildings by the end of April. City charters are also to be inspected.

When determined necessary by building and safety inspectors, the city’s health department will conduct its own inspections.

The call for inspections came after Duggan toured several DPS schools with city officials in the wake of sickouts by teachers who have complained about building conditions, among other issues.

Duggan vowed to seek immediate solutions to the “deeply disturbing” problems he observed in some of the schools, including a dead mouse on the floor of a classroom and students wearing coats in class to ward off 50-degree chill.

In a statement, DPS spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said the district is "cooperating fully with the City and its inspectors."

"The inspection reports have called out a variety of issues and the District is developing plans to address the corrections requested in each school," she said. "In a majority of cases, the corrective actions requested are those that can and/or are already being addressed. There are, however, a number of corrections that are more extensive and costly. Life and safety matters are, of course, our priority and we are working to address those issues immediately.".

In a separate development, the International Union of Operating Engineers announced Monday that a Michigan Court of Appeals judge ruled against DPS and the city in the district’s attempt to reduce the number of boiler operators manning commercial boilers heating schools.

Labor unions and residents have raised issues over a plan by DPS to cut the number of certified, licensed boiler operators and switch to an unmanned system of monitoring commercial boilers in schools, a move they contend is too dangerous.

Duggan says for some issues, DPS will have 30 days to make fixes and others have more immediate deadlines. The inspection reports, he said, lay out how long the district has to complete the repairs.

As inspections are conducted, reports will be completed and emailed to DPS officials 24 hours after the inspection; in addition, 72 hours after DPS receives its copy of each report, the city will post the inspection reports on its website.

Schools can request an extension in exceptional cases. However, they are required to submit an action plan and explain why the extension is necessary, officials said.

A ticket will be issued if violations are not corrected within the allotted time frame and an extension has not been granted.

Duggan says city inspectors are working closely with DPS building officials to get violations addressed and the tone from DPS so far has been “constructive.”

“DPS has indicated they are going to act quickly on these repairs,” he said. “I hope they do. But if they don’t we are going to act very vigorously in court.”

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