Philly Council tackles infrastructure issues at city schools

‘Even though we are allocating the budget of the school district, yes, they’re responsible. It is their responsibility to prioritize the upkeep and maintenance of these buildings,’ Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson said

By: - February 26, 2022 6:30 am

George W Nebinger Public School (Philadelphia Tribune photo)

By Brian Saunders

PHILADELPHIA — Among their challenges, some city schools are awaiting scoreboards that have yet to be installed.

City Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, who coaches high school boys basketball, relayed that story during Thursday’s council session, as city legislators addressed broader infrastructure issues across the Philadelphia school district.

“I’m really concerned around the infrastructure plan as it relates to the school district in the city of Philadelphia,” Thomas said.

“This is another example of the concern that’s been communicated by not just myself and other members of the city council but the public at large as it relates to having a plan around the School District of Philadelphia,” Thomas continued. “And the infrastructure problems we had. I am not the first council member to say it. I’m just providing more examples in highlighting our concern related to long-term planning around the school district.”

At-large Councilmember Derek Green also chimed in on the School District of Philadelphia, echoing Thomas’ sentiments about infrastructure concerns throughout schools in Philly.

“At the same point, our infrastructure is not where it needs to be,” Green said. “Last Wednesday, I participated in the press conference along with Penn Environment, PennPIRG, and the Black Center for Justice Equality, based on reports regarding the fact that 98% of the drinking water that was tested in our public schools had lead in them and 61% of the outlets in our schools were tested with lead.”

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Green said that it is of great concern how the school district has handled the report, and there seems to be a lack of transparency.

“This will be an issue that will definitely come up in our budget process,” Green said. “Because we know that the school district received a significant amount of dollars from us through our real estate tax. And we’re going to ask these questions as we always do.”

Green said that includes what they’re doing to address other infrastructure concerns such as asbestos, pest infestation and mold.

Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, D-2nd District, said he hopes people pay attention to who the incoming school district superintendent will be.

“Even though we are allocating the budget of the school district, yes, they’re responsible. It is their responsibility to prioritize the upkeep and maintenance of these buildings,” Johnson said.

Council approves ordinance requiring developers to have rat abatement plans

Back in November, Councilmember Cindy Bass, D-8th District, introduced legislation to help cut the number of rats in construction areas.

On Thursday, legislation was approved to require the property owner to prepare a rodent control management plan to detect, inspect and treat rats or rodents at the site before demolition or construction.

“Site owners need to be held accountable, and that’s what this bill is meant to do,” said Councilmember Bass, who chairs Council’s Public Health Committee. “Our residents shouldn’t have to fear rodents from building sites intruding on their personal space or the neighborhood. This has been a public safety and health concern, and I’m glad to see steps being taken in the right direction.”

“It’s only fair that property developers have a rat abatement plan in place to deal with this nuisance problem before it gets any worse,” City Council President Darrell Clarke D-5th district said.

Alongside the rodent management plan, there will also be a requirement to have vacant lots inspected yearly.

School district adopts civic participation and voter registration program

City Council passed a resolution introduced by Green to approve a PA Youth Vote program to register high school students to vote.

Green said that up to around 8,000 high schoolers become eligible to vote every year, and this program will have a real opportunity to increase youth voter participation.

“You’ll actually have a paid staff person or voting champion in each of our schools,” Green said. “Providing information and encouraging and having civic participation. This is the first of this type of initiative in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Brian Saunders is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared

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