by Karel Kilimnik
Almost one-fifth of January’s Action Items address the ongoing toxic schools crisis. The Board will be voting on contracts to outside vendors totaling approximately $40 million– this month alone. Toxic conditions in the city’s schools are being discovered every week. Most district buildings were built when the dangers of lead and asbestos were not fully understood. But that does not excuse the years of inaction after those dangers became clear. Essential reading includes the June 2019 Inquirer Series on Toxic Schools , in which a team of investigative reporters created three sections based on interviews and data: Danger: Learn at your own risk; Hidden Peril; and Botched Jobs. Since schools opened in September, lead and asbestos has been discovered in more schools, resulting in the growing demand from parents, students, teachers, and community members to fix them. Time and again the District has failed to listen to stakeholders. Contractors who performed shoddy and incomplete work are rehired; much of the construction takes place during school hours. Contractors have failed to safely dispose of contaminated materials or to adequately cordon off work areas, and their completed work does not pass environmental testing. On January 20, the PFT held a press conference announcing its intent to seek a remedy through the courts as the District has failed to work with the union to correct the situation. This edition of Eyes focuses on the issues raised as seen by the many contracts awaiting approval.