D.C. School Repairs Lagging: Of 24 Promised Ready by This Week, 4 Finished

Article excerpt

The District has fallen woefully behind on its schedule to replace school roofs, even though schools chief Julius W. Becton Jr. assured parents again yesterday that the buildings would be ready when classes resume Sept. 22.

School officials, who told D.C. Superior Court Judge Kaye K. Christian last week that 24 schools would be repaired and inspected by Aug. 31, will tell her today that only four are ready to go.

Those four, according to an affidavit prepared by school officials, are Ross, Tyler, Winston and J.F. Cook elementary schools. They now await approval by Judge Christian.

Even if all 24 schools had passed muster as school officials promised, it would only be half of the 48 schools that need to get new roofs before classes can resume.

"This does not inspire confidence," said Mary Levy, a lawyer for Parents United, the advocacy group suing the school system in an effort to eliminate fire-code violations. "We so need to have the staff able to get into those schools."

School officials completed the status report just hours after Gen. Becton repeated his assertions that classes would be ready to begin Sept. 22 - three weeks after they were originally set to resume. Gen. Becton, the retired Army officer hired last year by the D.C. financial control board, made the comments after a meeting yesterday with House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in which he updated the Georgia Republican on his efforts to overhaul the system.

But some parents and school advocates said they worry that if the system is behind on repairs, the three-week delay could extend into October, at least at some schools.

"My guess is 10 to 15 schools won't be open," said Mary Filardo, executive director of the 21st Century Schools Fund, an advocacy and research group active in city school repairs. …