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Duggan: ‘Enormous progress’ fixing DPS building issues

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Mayor Mike Duggan said Monday that just eight classroom buildings in the Detroit Public Schools Community District need repairs, months after the discovery of mold, water damage, rodent infestations and other problems triggered public outrage and mass teacher sickouts.

Detroit school board president Herman Davis arrives to a padlocked door way to an area of Spain Elementary Middle School that has been damaged, including the gym.

“Enormous progress has been made and I am satisfied with the diligence and commitment made ... by (Emergency Manager) Judge Steven Rhodes and interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather,” Duggan said during a news conference at Bates Academy.

Duggan said 86 district schools have certificates of 100 percent compliance with city building codes. The district has spent $2.5 million on repairs, he said.

He added no DPS schools have elevated lead levels. In April, water test results showed 15 DPS buildings had high lead levels, including one where a drinking fountain recorded 100 times the allowable limit.

Harry Coakley, principal at Fisher Magnet Upper Academy, during an enrollment open house Saturday showed an area of ceiling in the school’s atrium that had a couple of leaks, “but they’ve been repaired.”

Steve Conn, who teaches at Western International High School, said he did not notice anything obviously wrong in the building Monday.

But he said his main concern about repairs is having a reporting mechanism.

“There should be a public record which anybody can see — teachers, parents, students — about anything that has been reported an what’s been done about it,” he said. “Right now, it appears if you report something, it just disappears from sight and it should be in the public eye.”

Robin Jennings, who teaches fourth grade at Cooke STEM Academy, said her building was not one city inspectors needed to cite for violations.

“We had a floor tile that needed to be replaced and it was replaced,” she said.

Parents and educators can report building concerns through the city’s website and officials say the appropriate city department will follow-up with an inspection.

In January, corrective actions were ordered for several district buildings. 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 and charter schools.

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 call for inspections came after Duggan toured several DPS schools with city officials following a series of sickouts by teachers who 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.

The mayor said he still has a photo on his cellphone of the deceased rodent he saw.

In a statement at that time, former DPS spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said the district was “cooperating fully with the city and its inspectors.”


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