Other Unsafe School Buildings

Published September 1, 2000

The New York City public school system is not the only one where problems in managing school construction and repair projects have resulted in subjecting students and school staff to unnecessary safety hazards.

Voters in Detroit, for example, approved a $1.5 billion bond issue in 1994 to repair 263 public schools and build more than a dozen new ones. But only $134 million had been spent five years later, thanks to what The Detroit News called “incompetence, mismanagement, and cronyism by Detroit school officials, employees, and contractors.” As a result, children still are being taught in old buildings with peeling paint, broken windows, leaky roofs, and failing plumbing and electrical systems.

Other examples of unsafe school buildings:

  • Earlier this year, the Board of Education of the Los Angeles school district voted to abandon a $170 million half-built high school located on the site of a former oil field because of dangerous levels of toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide.
  • In April of this year, the Environmental Protection Agency levied a $1.4 million fine against the Detroit public school system for not adhering to deadlines in monitoring asbestos levels in its schools. An EPA inspection revealed asbestos hanging out of ceilings and exposed around pipes where children congregated.
  • Public school construction and repair in Massachusetts are plagued by missed deadlines, costly overruns, and shoddy workmanship, according to a recent analysis by Beth Daley of The Boston Globe. For example, students had to be moved out of Pembroke’s Hobomock School last fall because steel beams were installed improperly.

With doors that are installed backwards, hot water flowing in toilets, and windows falling out, “It’s as if the Three Stooges renovated parts of Gloucester High School,” wrote Daley.