We have the tools at our fingertips today to ensure our schools are environmentally safe places for our kids and educators. We're calling on decision makers to immediately implement the following policies to make Philly's schools healthy schools.
Transparency & Right To Know
Improving the Public’s Right to Know: parents, teachers, and community members must have access to environmental health data being collected by school district officials—but that’s not shared with the public.
ABCs of Schools
Establish “the ABCs” for buildings: We must set “Adequate Building Conditions”—the minimally acceptable environmental health standards that should be met by all of our schools buildings.
Urgent-Immediate Response Needs
Address the most critical environmental health threats in our schools: and develop an action plan to remediate them in the fastest way possible.
Public Oversight & Task Force
Create a Healthy Schools Task Force: Parents, students, teachers, unions, and other community stakeholders must have a process to provide input and environmental health recommendations, and help develop the Facilities Master Plan.
Develop a Master Plan
Most large school districts across the country have a Facilities Master Plan to prioritize and ensure schools are healthy and safe, but the Philadelphia School district does not. We need to change this.
Our schools must be properly funded to finance these and other critical challenges facing our school buildings.
The recommendations of the Philly Healthy Schools Initiative are already being successfully used across the nation. Now it’s time for the Philadelphia School District to implement these best practices including:
Near Term Solutions
1) The School District of Philadelphia should immediately make all collected data and information, including, but not limited to, assessment findings, results and recommendations from environmental inspections, maintenance work orders, construction projects and all other facility condition, environmental and related activities, available and posted on the District’s web site. This information should be made easily, clearly and readily available for public access and review.
2) Immediately establish a Facility Infrastructure-Environmental Hazard Oversight Task Force/Special Committee structure to be made up of direct, and near-direct school stakeholders, parents, and public advocacy groups.
3) Immediately fill the numerous current openings in the district’s M&O departments [53 in maintenance trades + 60 school building engineers and 2 pest control workers. These current staffing levels are too low and so we recommend staffing maintenance/trades worker staffing increases sufficient to address our 25 year maintenance backlog and to make sure schools are properly maintained
4) Immediately increase the cleaning and custodial workforce to a level where an individual cleaner would be responsible for about 20,000 – 25,000 square feet of space instead of the much greater current levels. This would require the hiring of about 250 new cleaners.
5) Immediately ensure that substitute cleaners are placed in schools whenever someone is out of work and that cleaning shifts of 8 hours are scheduled and conducted only after students and staff are out of school [Effective cleaning can help, on a day-to-day basis, in keeping schools free of at least some contaminants and can go a long way to helping control dust, dirt and debris that serve as “asthma triggers” for our students and staff].
6) The SDP should immediately provide increased resource and personnel support and training sufficient to ensure that all building areas, especially those where lead paint, asbestos, and pest/rodent issues exist, are cleaned up on a daily basis. This should include the purchase and use of at least one  HEPA (high efficiency particulate air). HEPA vacuums can be purchased for about $400 each [(The district recently purchased 25 of these vacuums.)
Longer Term Solutions
1) The Task Force/Special Committee should develop and implement a plan to identifying and characterizing the most urgent, immediate and critical needs at both the school and room level and would come up with an action plan to remediate them in the fastest way possible.
2) The Task Force/Special Committee should develop “Adequate Building Standards” focused on infrastructure deficiencies and related environmental hazards for all schools and will create “Best Practices” approaches and provide recommendations for short, medium and long-term fixes.
3) Using the ABCs created by the Task Force/Special Committee the District should routinely inspect and assess the location, condition and amount of damaged lead-containing paints and other materials on an annual basis as well as in response to any ongoing and/or emergency conditions that might arise.
4) Promote increased transparency and information sharing district wide and on several levels including modifying and improving the existing Work Order system to have some of the elements of the City’s 3-1-1 complaint system. This would better allow staffers, parents, students and volunteers would be able to report environmental problems and upload photos. This transparent system would allow people to track the progress and resolution of complaints.
5) The investment, funding levels and support for Maintenance and Operations [M&O] and Capital Renewal work must be brought in line with the well- accepted standards, guidelines and recommendations of about 3% of the total Current Replacement Value [CRV] of a set of buildings. The major Facility Condition Assessment [FCA] report done a few years ago by the District identified our CRV to be $14 billion [we should therefore be devoting about $420 million/year to M&O]
6) Our schools must also be modernized. Effective and adequate Capital Improvement and Renewal must be done starting immediately. Planning, priority setting and decision-making efforts must include substantive public involvement.
All Philly school buildings and grounds need to be on a schedule to be modernized to meet modern codes and requirements and to support educational standards and priorities. For Philadelphia schools, this means the school district should be spending at least 3% of its CRV – actually more like 4% – on capital renewals, to be able to catch up with the higher costs associated with deteriorated facilities including costs associated with asbestos and lead abatement when working on buildings. This results in spending needs of between $420 to $560 million per year on major capital modernizations and renewals. [Failing to do so necessarily means that maintenance costs will skyrocket].