Monthly Organizing: Safe Schools For Our Kids

WE convened Tuesday, September 12 in a classroom at Kensington CAPA for our monthly organizing meeting. This meeting kicked off the year with matters of deepest concern:  discussing how to fight for safer, healthier schools and maintaining the values at the heart of WE: educational justice and equality for our students.

A representative from the Philly Healthy Schools Initiative opened the meeting with frightening facts about the poor indoor air quality in specific schools throughout the district:

  • Dobbins AVT High School, Furness High School, Spring Garden School, and F. Amadee Bregy each have extensive mold remediation issues. 
  • Clementè Roberto Middle School, Hunter Elementary School, Edward T. Steel School, Luis Muños-Marín Elementary, and Furness High School all have potential issues with asbestos remediation.

These are the schools that WE are positive have these issues, yet there could be more with these conditions that are unknown.  

Dangerous mold and Asbestos exasperates the medical conditions of our kids, which in one case has resulted in the death of a student who had an asthma attack. Even the students who do not have medical conditions are at risk.  Breathing in toxic air every day could result in death later in life, most likely between the ages of 26-28 due to inhaled asbestos particles.

What’s more, asbestos level tests and removal at Furness and Spring Garden were not done correctly.  The issue at Spring Garden was behind the stage in their auditorium. It was observed that a dumpster found out in the open across the street from the school in a residential area that contained the waste and toxins from the removal, and the dumpster had not been taped off. This put those in that residential area also at risk.  Although it was removed from the stage, the seats in the auditorium were not checked. As a result, a staff member from the school was the only one who decided to have them tested and found high levels of Asbestos.

As reported by Philly Healthy Schools Initiative, “the average age of our public school facilities is greater than 66 years and decades of under-investment has resulted in nearly $5 billion of deferred maintenance, repairs, and placement needs.”  Students should not have to suffer exposure to dangerous conditions at the hands of an underfunded institution.

So what can be done? Philly Healthy Schools Initiative are asking for a call of action from schools and their communities. Staff members and parents of students are specifically the biggest advocates to reach out to the SDP for more transparency regarding the conditions of schools to work toward plans and budgeting in order to fix these issues.

Parents have the most autonomy when it comes to speaking out. However, they are also forced to undergo difficult procedures just to be able to visit their child’s school for a day. There are many steps for a parent to get into the school building. They are allowed two “grace visits,” but after that they first they need to have all of their clearances (fingerprints, background checks, etc.) Then they must sign a code of conduct. Then they must sit through a one-hour training which happens once a month, though it will be making the transition to be online.

Even after these things are completed, it is at the principal’s discretion for which parts of the school the parent may visit. Non-English speaking and undocumented parents are required to have a chaperone (typically a staff member) to escort them.  

WE encourage teachers to help their parents navigate this process and become more involved advocating for the conditions of our schools. The more parents and staff members who work with the SDP to establish priorities for improvements, the better. 

Does this work matter to you? Join us at our Monthly Organizing Meeting in October for more campaigns like this one! 

Tuesday, October 10th // 4:30 - 6:30 PM // Kensington CAPA High School