Ongoing HVAC issues linger in DC public schools

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

WASHINGTON, DC, DC — DC public school students are expected to return to class in just days. But will they return to hot classrooms on Monday, August 29? WUSA9 has learned that HVAC issues persist and crews are rushing to restore air before school starts. DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson castigated the General Services Department on Twitter for missing the deadline to notify the Board about HVAC repairs. Now the numbers are there and it shows that there is still a lot of work to be done.

“The responsibility lies with the mayor,” said Scott Goldstein of Empower Ed. Goldstein said ongoing HVAC issues in DCPS buildings are ultimately an administration failure since the mayor controls DCPS.

“The DGS has failed over the years, and the council and others have failed to hold them accountable enough. But at the end of the day, the mayor has to step in and make sure every school is ready from day one,” Goldstein said.

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

These schools are all in Ward 8:

  • Anacostia High School
  • Savoy primary school
  • Boone Elementary School

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

“We’re great at building these beautiful school buildings, but not great at maintaining them,” Goldstein said. “The most affected students are absolutely among our lowest income earners, primarily black and Latino students from across the city.”

WUSA9 contacted DGS regarding repair status and timelines. A spokesperson sent us this statement:

The Department of General Services (DGS) is working closely with DC Public Schools (DCPS) to prepare for the start of the school year. DGS focuses on reducing work orders and ongoing maintenance needs, including preventative maintenance strategies. We know that many stakeholders are interested in the readiness of their school facilities and we have published information about our website which provides details of work orders completed since January 1, 2020.

Board member Robert White, whose committee oversees the DGS, recently visited Hendley Elementary in the southeast Washington Highlands section (Ward 8). He showed WUSA9 photos of other issues like a broken toilet in the girls’ room and flooding in the boiler room. The Council member is due to meet with the DGS Director on Thursday morning and will update WUSA9 on the status of their discussion.

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

RELATED: DC Teachers Resign 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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