A teacher in the District of Columbia wrote about the hidden scandal in public education: crumbling buildings.

She writes:

For all the debate about why schools should not open … the most obvious elephant in the room is invisible or just a footnote in most discussions. Yes… schools are crowded, yes… the government is not giving timely funding for the necessary PPE and such… and there are SO MANY reasons I could provide as to the dangers at this current time from early childhood issues to teen issues. But the glaring one involves a problem that has existed LONG before the pandemic, but would now be impossible “to fix” in order to make schools safe to open this fall.

US public school buildings are falling apart and have been for years. My school has a rampant mold problem. Two years ago we had a terrible rainy summer and came back to see that the mold was no longer hidden and just “peeking through, but rather was everywhere. I had a giant black clump of black mold on my ceiling in one spot where there is always moisture under normal circumstances. Mold was everywhere – hallways, classrooms, floors…. Was there mold abatement? No. They took ceiling tiles out, cleaned cursorily here and there for “cosmetic appeal”. They finally closed the school down over a weekend in mid fall and turned up all the heaters on high and opened windows and doors all weekend. The spores may have gone into dormancy – that is all. They would perk up as soon as pipe condensation started up when the AC came on in spring. At the end of the school year summer school was held at my school and the can was pushed further down the road for repairs and abatement.

That “road” never came. The custodian was told by his superiors to just replace ceiling tiles. I would regularly spray the obvious mold patch in my ceiling with hydrogen peroxide (bought on my own dime) knowing that this mold could not be healthy for little ones lungs!

Why bring all this up? Our school also has heat and AC issues… filters not fitting properly when replaced etc. My school is NO DIFFERENT than so many public schools in America. Even if the government did give over funding (even right away in March) it would take years to bring the buildings up to safety standards under normal conditions. All kinds of respiratory illnesses abound in my school and schools in other areas of the country too (have teacher friends in different places). This vulnerability would make our young as well as staff even more vulnerable in a very dangerous time.

So, do we send our students back to schools that make them vulnerable under ordinary circumstances? I have a feeling that S. Korea and schools in Europe are paying attention to school infrastructure so it really is a matter of organizing space, schedules to reduce numbers of students at any one time and adding PPE and cleaning.

NOT IN AMERICAN SCHOOLS… they are unsafe to begin with. This is the big elephant in the room.

Thank god my region made a smart decision and very early and set the tone for the entire metro DC/VA/MD area.