Just 15 days before students head back to class, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones is responding to a new report that finds the city’s public schools need at least $35 million in repairs.
School leaders say major maintenance projects like replacing HVAC systems and crumbling buildings can’t wait any longer.
“I’ve got grandmothers calling me begging that their grandchild doesn’t get put in a basement because they have asthma and we have mold issues,” says School Board member, Kim Gray.
“We have sewage issues, we have HVAC and boiler issues that we have to address right now,” says Gray.
But Mayor Dwight Jones says — while repairs are needed — performance, enrollment, graduation and dropout rates also need to be part of the discussion when it comes to improving education.
“I agree that we need proper facilities to educate our children, and every maintenance request we have received from richmond public schools has been fully funded,” says Mayor Jones.
“It’s imperative that we undertake the due diligence to ensure that the money we do have and the money that we will seek is invested wisely,” says Jones.
Earlier this month, the school board got a presentation about what needs to be fixed after administrators spent months inspecting every school and building.
The biggest problem they found were those failing HVAC systems. Repairs and replacements for those alone are slated at $20 million.
Another $7.5 million is needed for roofs and more than $4 million are needed for basic life, health and safety improvements.
“Many, if not most, of these issues were present in reports dating as far back as 2002,” Mayor Jones said at a news conference Monday. “It’s clear that the neglect that is now being focused on is neglect that did not happen overnight, and it won’t be fixed overnight.”
The mayor is proposing taking a comprehensive approach to school maintenance — not just focusing on the state of the facilities.
Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond