City Desk

School Repairs: Deja Vu?

Smelly bathrooms, faulty pipes, and leaky roofs. Oh my, all those leaky roofs–these are just a few of the intractable facilities problems that have laid low one D.C. public schools chief after another. Stretching back to the celebrated Julius Becton, on through Arlene Ackerman, Paul Vance, Clifford Janey, no one's ever been able to commandeer the contractors and plug up all the holes in the plaster and get the a/c running.

Michelle Rhee was supposed to be better (as, of course, has every new schools chief). For one, she had a better title–chancellor has it all over superintendent, a title that has the jingle of keys hanging from a belt loop.

Yet a little more than a year after taking the reins, the chancy is showing just how much she has in common with her predecessors. Word is that the facilities won't be ready. Dust may well be flying around, contractors' vehicles still parked on school grounds, etc.

You know that things look bleak when Allen Lew, the extremely highly regarded schools facilities chief, is quoted in the Washington Post assigning blame elsewhere for the slow pace of repairs: "All the back and forth on the council didn't help," Lew told the Post's Bill Turque.

Sixty buildings in the system underwent some sort of construction/repairs, and only a few of them are still work zones. Lew is promising, according to the Post, that all classrooms and common areas will be ready for the start of classes on Monday.

That claim will be carefully fact-checked, as teachers and students and principals tend to speak up when they have to deal with dust and debris in the schoolhouse.

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