This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The District is now working on six different schools needing lead paint stabilization that they would like to have completed when schools open on Aug. 27, but Jerry Roseman, director of environmental science and occupational safety and health for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, does not see that happening.
This week, the District added Kirkbride Elementary in South Philadelphia to the list of those that merited immediate attention, which already includes A.S. Jenks, Logan, Finletter, Barton and Emlen Elementary Schools.
“I would seriously doubt that any one of those schools will be complete by the time school begins on the 27th of August,” Roseman said. “It’s vaguely possible that one or two of them may be, but I doubt it, and several of them will have a fair amount of work to do. I hope I’m wrong. They’re working hard in the schools.”
Roseman made clear that the people he has talked to at the District, including Chief Operating Officer Danielle Floyd, have made clear that they also do not believe they will be able to have all six schools done by the time school starts.
Lee Whack, spokesman for the District, said work is now being done at Kirkbride because more recent evaluations done by the District found that the situation was dire enough that it needed immediate intervention.
“From doing the walkthroughs and assessments as we’ve done at schools on this list, sometimes we need to make different decisions in order to address things more quickly,” Whack said. “We are always focused on addressing our schools as needed and addressing situations in our schools with the resources we have as quickly as we can, and when we find a school has certain issues that need to be taken care of as soon as possible, and we have the ability to do that, we do that and we move quickly on that, because it’s important.”
The work now being done at Kirkbride, Whack said, will not affect the work that is already being done at the original five schools.
By adding another school, Roseman stressed how the $7.6 million that the District received from the state to address lead paint will be further strained in the number of schools it can cover. In total, the District says that 45 schools need lead paint stabilization as soon as possible, and it has been prioritizing the ones with the most pressing issues.
The hope is to have all the schools fully assessed by the end of September.
“The $7.6 million cannot possibly stretch to include all of the schools that need this kind of work, that’s for sure,” Roseman said. “So just as you add schools, you clearly begin to outstrip the ability to fund it with the $7.6 million.”
Roseman said that, based on work done at Jackson and Nebinger Elementary Schools, doing the job properly costs about $250,000 per school.
“That’s probably a little high, but if you use that kind of estimate for 40 schools, you’re at $10 million. Even if it was $200,000 for the 40 schools, you’d be at $8 million. You add five, you’re at $9 million, so it seems unlikely to cover them unless it’s much cheaper than it’s been estimated,” Roseman said.