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HVAC problems persist at DC Public Schools just days before students return to class

To date, there are still 181 open work orders for cooling units at DCPS.

WASHINGTON — Students in D.C. Public Schools are set to return to class in just a matter of days. But will they return to hot classrooms on Monday, Aug. 29?  WUSA9 has learned ongoing HVAC problems persist and crews are rushing to get the air back on before the start of school. DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson blasted the Department of General Services on Twitter for missing the deadline to update the Council on HVAC repairs. Now the numbers are in and it shows there is still lots of work to do.

“The buck stops with the Mayor,” said Scott Goldstein of Empower Ed. Goldstein said ongoing HVAC issues in DCPS buildings are ultimately a failure of the administration since the Mayor controls DCPS.

“DGS has failed over the years, and the council and others have failed to hold them adequately accountable. But ultimately, the Mayor needs to intervene and make sure that every school is ready on day one,” said Goldstein.

New DC Council legislation forced DGS to release more detailed information about the status of work orders and the school’s HVAC systems. While, one document shows crews have been working on repairs all summer long, as of Aug. 23 there were still 181 open work orders for broken cooling units in places like classrooms, libraries, cafeterias, gyms and in some cases the entire building.

Those schools are all in Ward 8:

  • Anacostia High School
  • Savoy Elementary School
  • Boone Elementary School

 A rating system indicates 209 HVAC are in good condition while 806 are only in fair. So far, 40 schools have “contingency plans” in place that could include spot coolers or window units.

“We're great at building these beautiful school buildings, not very good at keeping them up,” said Goldstein. “The students who are affected the most are absolutely some of our lowest income, predominantly Black and Latino students across the city.”

WUSA9 reached out to DGS about the status and timelines for repairs.  A spokesperson sent us this statement:

The Department of General Services (DGS) works closely with DC Public Schools (DCPS) to prepare for back to school. DGS is focused on work order reduction and ongoing maintenance needs including preventative maintenance strategies. We know many stakeholders are interested in the readiness of their school facilities and we have posted information on our website that provides details on work orders completed since January 1, 2020.

Councilmember Robert White, whose committee oversees DGS, recently toured Hendley Elementary in the Washington Highlands section of Southeast (Ward 8). He showed WUSA9 pictures of more issues like a broken toilet in the girls’ room and flooding in the boiler room. The Councilmember is set to meet with the DGS Director Thursday morning and will update WUSA9 on the status of their discussion.

“Our students deserve to go into safe joyful learning environments in every school in every community around the city,” added Goldstein.

RELATED: DC teachers quitting over school district's COVID-19 response, classroom safety

RELATED: 'We're hot and uncomfortable' | DCPS teachers ask District leaders to help fix air conditioning as temperatures rise

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