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The roof of Paul L. Dunbar School in North Philadelphia.

Kimberly Paynter (NewsWorks/WHYY)

Kimberly Paynter / NewsWorks/WHYY

Report: Philly needs billions to rehab sagging schools

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Nestled among the gleaming towers of Temple University sits Paul Lawrence Dunbar Elementary School, built in 1931 and looking every bit its age.

On rainy days, the school’s roof, which is out of date and poorly pitched, becomes a repository for large pools of water. And sometimes the water becomes a big problem for the students below.

"Quite often, we have to move the class because this water seeps down into the classrooms, through the ceiling tiles, onto the floor, and there’s children in there with big buckets," said Dunbar principal Dawn Moore.

Dunbar is one of the lucky schools. It will be getting a replacement roof within the year.

But there’s a big backlog of projects similar to this one that the District can’t afford to complete. In fact, there are more than 12,000 of them.

A new report commissioned by the District and released Thursday shows just how expensive that backlog has become and how much pricier it could get if Philadelphia doesn’t commit more money to capital projects.

Right now, the District has $4.5 billion in deferred maintenance, according to the just-completed Facilities Condition Assessment (FCA). In the next 10 years, the report says, Philadelphia schools will accumulate $3.2 billion more in needed repairs.

It will come as news to almost no one that a cash-strapped school District with buildings over a century old has significant facilities needs. The FCA, however, offers a rare look at how significant those needs are. It’s been almost 15 years since the District completed an analysis like this – and back then, the results weren’t made public, said Danielle Floyd, the District’s capital projects director.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks