Asbestos and other health risks found in Philly schools
After a close inspection of 20 Philadelphia schools, City Controller Alan Butkovitz released a report Wednesday detailing at least one “hazardous” or “unsafe” condition in each facility.
The problems described in the report range from mild to disturbing. 95 percent of the inspected schools showed signs water damage, from mold to flooded mechanical rooms. Nearly three out of four schools had fire safety and/or electrical hazards — expired fire extinguishers, exposed live wires, open electrical panels, and even blocked fire exits.
But the most concerning thing investigators found was a pipe containing exposed asbestos at Francis Scott Key Elementary School. It wasn’t in an unused basement or sequestered annex, but in a well-travelled hallway near the cafeteria.
“The presence of improperly encased asbestos material could pose a serious health risk to anyone who comes in contact with it,” Butkovitz said. “The School District needs to have a licensed asbestos abatement professional investigate and remove the potential danger.”
Investigators also discovered unsanitary conditions in many school bathrooms: cockroaches at Central High School; clogged urinals at Dimmer Beeber Middle School; and a duct-taped ventilating pipe at John Story Jenks Elementary.
The City Controller’s office has called on the School District to develop an action plan to deal with these problems while students are on summer break.
Even with the school district's current financial plight, Butkovitz said that many of these conditions could be fixed at a minimal cost by the school maintenance staff.
“The School District needs to provide a safe, sanitary learning environment for everyone, including our great teachers who must endure these conditions daily,” he said. “The longer these low-cost items go unattended, the more severe and costly they will become.