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District expects to finish lead remediation at 5 schools by Aug. 27

Work on all 44 deemed to need work will likely take up to 18 months

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

District officials told more than two dozen parents, teachers, staff, and administrators gathered Tuesday morning at A.S. Jenks Elementary in South Philadelphia that their school is one of five where lead remediation will be completed before Aug. 27, when the District’s new academic year begins.

The five are among 44 schools that the District has identified as needing the work, based on physical inspections, data analysis, age of the school, quantity and severity of damage and presence of children under six. The four others to be completed are Thomas K. Finletter Academics Plus School (serving K-8) in Olney, James Logan School (K-5) in Wister, Clara Barton Elementary School (K-2) in Feltonville, and Eleanor C. Emlen School (K-5) in Mount Airy. Meetings were also held at these schools.

Officials said at the meeting that they were planning walk-throughs in preparation for lead remediation activities at McCall School (K-8) in Queen Village, Shawmont School (K-8) in Roxborough, and Lewis Elkin Elementary School (K-4).

At the meeting, several parents and teachers brought up questions about the work being done, from wanting all the furniture moved by the contractors and not the teachers to whether there is lead in the water.

Shkelqim Huzizoy, a parent of two Jenks students, said that the remediation and repairs would enhance students’ experiences and appreciated the communication.

“Parents need to know what’s happening in schools,” Huzizoy said. “We’re interested in what’s happening because it’s our kids, and we want to see them healthy. They’ll see the class was dirty and now it’s changed and beautiful and everything.”

Huzizoy said he was reassured by the progress reports.

“People understand what happens, given our discussion between contractors, the principal, the city and everybody, this is the best meeting we got all year,” Huzizoy said.

Jerry Roseman, director of environmental science and occupational safety and health for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, gave a rough estimate of 12 to 18 months for how long it will take to finish the work at all 44 schools.

Teachers will be arriving at A.S. Jenks on Aug. 20, and the District plans to have all the work done on the classrooms by the time they arrive.

According to the District’s work orders, Jenks has 14 classrooms that need to be addressed, each with several areas of lead paint. In total, there are 286 different items that require attention from the cleaners by the time school opens, with some areas needing more work done than others.

One of the classrooms, Room 207, requires 35 square feet of plastering and has flaking issues on 114 square feet across three of the room’s walls, ongoing moisture intrusion on one of the walls, and plastering needed on the windows.

Kelvin Evans, the director of strategic planning, said that they have two contractors for the whole building, one for paint and one for plaster, that have agreed to work 12-hour days. Work at the school was scheduled to start by today, Aug. 2, and it will take three to four days to fully remediate and paint each room.

Jessica Binda-Rischow, the District’s construction manager, said it takes about a week to do a walk-through for three schools and identify all the issues that need to be addressed. She said the hope is that they will have the evaluations in all 44 schools done by the end of September.

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