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DPS, city agree on timetable for school repairs

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

The city and Detroit Public Schools have entered a consent agreement that sets a timetable for fixing hundreds of safety and health violations in the district’s school buildings, with the district getting extra time to finish repairs at some buildings.

Officials said Friday the agreement covers the first 26 schools inspected by the city that require repairs. Additional schools will be added as inspections progress.

“What we wanted was a commitment from DPS with specific time lines for making each repair and a binding agreement enforceable in court if those time lines are not met,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement.

According to a report posted on the city’s website, many of the repairs at the 26 schools have been completed.

In some cases, invoices need to be corrected before work can proceed, according to the report; in others, extensions are being granted.

For example, because of possible poor weather, the district has until June 30 to finish concrete work needed to prevent water leaks in an underground storage room at Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine.

At Cody High School, the district has until July 30 to replace cracked glass-block windows because caulk around them contains asbestos, which must be abated first, and until April 30 to make roof repairs that include masonry work.

At six schools with reported rodent infestations — Blackwell Institute, Clark Preparatory Academy, Cody High, Sampson-Webber Leadership Academy, Ronald Brown Academy and Spain Elementary-Middle — inspections are being done monthly by pest control contractors, according to the city report.

The other schools covered by the agreement are: Ann Arbor Trail Magnet School, Diann Banks-Williamson Center, Burton International Academy, Carstens Academy of Aquatic Science at Remus, Detroit International Academy for Young Women, Dossin Elementary-Middle, East English Village, Fisher Magnet Lower, Fisher Magnet Upper, Fleming Early Learning Neighborhood Center, Gardner Elementary, Greenfield Union Elementary-Middle, Henderson Academy, A.L. Holmes Elementary-Middle, John R. King Academic and Performing Arts Academy, Mason Academy, Osborn High, Turning Point Academy and Vernor Elementary.

The city’s Building, Safety, Engineering & Environmental Department began a four-month inspection program last month for all 97 DPS buildings after complaints by teachers and parents about problems including water leaks, mold and heating.

Building checks were promptly conducted in 20 DPS buildings believed to be most problematic. Inspections of the remaining district buildings, plus Detroit charter schools, are to be completed by the end of April.

DPS spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said the district has been working diligently to remedy the violations cited in the city inspection reports as well as the issues submitted by schools into the district’s online work order system.

“Good progress has been made on correcting a significant number of the violations; however, there are certain issues for which the district has requested an extension to the completion date (including for total roof replacements, the ordering of materials, and the scheduling of certified contractors for specific work),” she said in a statement.

The consent agreement, signed by the city’s top attorney, Melvin “Butch” Hollowell, and Marios Demetriou, DPS deputy superintendent of finance and operations, includes a spreadsheet listing progress on scores of projects and completion deadlines.

Officials said Friday that city inspectors have visited 64 DPS properties so far.

Some checks have turned up mold and rodents, heating and electrical issues as well as calls to replace peeling paint, broken glass and water-damaged ceiling tiles.

The Detroit Health Department also conducted follow-up inspections in some cases.

Teacher sickouts brought to light what teachers describe as intolerable and unsafe working conditions in many buildings.

The mass absences forced dozens of DPS school closures over several days last month.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers sued DPS last month over building conditions, asking for the removal of Emergency Manager Darnell Earley.

“We’re glad to hear that, finally, there appears to be promising movement on fixing the horrendous conditions plaguing Detroit public schools,” Ivy Bailey, interim president of the DFT, said Friday in a statement.

As for the suit against DPS, Bailey said: “We do not plan to withdraw it until we are confident that the consent agreement’s commitments have been fulfilled.”

Earlier this month, DPS announced it had redirected $300,000 to address immediate, critical needs outlined in the reports.

It is posting weekly progress on the district’s building improvements Web page.

Earley, who will step down Feb. 29, has said DPS would need state help for larger repairs, which could total $50 million.

The signed consent agreement is available on the city’s website at detroitmi.gov.

CFerretti@detroitnews.com

Staff Writer Shawn D. Lewis contributed.