WASHINGTON D.C., DC — Thousands of D.C. Public School students returned to classes Monday and unlike last year, there were no AC issues according to the Department of General Services (DGS). But councilmembers say the persistent HVAC problems point to an issue within the agency.
“Well, I would push back,” said Keith Anderson the DGS Director.
Anderson is defending his agency despite criticism that DGS is failing to maintain cool and safe conditions inside the schools – consistently. According to Councilmember Robert White, whose committee oversees DGS, 106 out of 117 schools have open work orders.
“With 117 schools there will always be work orders,” said Director Anderson.
Anderson said crews worked over the weekend to get all the schools cooling systems online. All certificates are up to date and only two schools needed backup systems like spot coolers or window units.
“Since the spring we’ve been very close with DCPS to prioritize the work orders we do have so we can have a successful first day of school,” said Anderson.
“But we are also seeing HVAC issues in our newest systems,” countered Councilmember White, “that identifies an underlying problem with some of the systems that we're using, or some of the contractors that we're using.”
“I’m very confident in our contractors that are maintaining our mechanical systems and the many more contractors that help us build and sustain the District of Columbia’s portfolio,” added Anderson.
At the height of the pandemic, DCPS leaders assured families they invested $24 Million in HVAC improvements. But WUSA9 has learned that money did not actually rebuild or repair any HVAC systems.
“Let me set the record straight,” said Anderson.
According to the director, the funds were used on inspections, HEPA filters, and monitoring. White said the Council gave DGS time to implement changes, but he said those changes are not enough.
“The systems within the Department of General Services, how they track manage and respond to facilities issues, is not working. It is not working,” said White. “So, at this point, we are going under the hood to understand where those system breakdowns are and how we fix them.”
Director Anderson said the work continues not only in maintenance but with replacing the aging HVAC. Mayor Bowser has invested $50 Million to replace the systems said Anderson.
That work will happen next summer.
One teacher said her classroom got up to 80 degrees before she and her 22 students were transferred to a smaller, cooler room elsewhere on campus.