Another brick in the wall, and a leak in the ceiling...
Over at NCLBlog they issue a challenge regarding the state of facilities for our schoolchildren. And I am willing to do my small bit.
Here is the Land Between the Coasts, we often see the many problems with facilities. In my suburban school district, we see the following:
1. They put flat roofs on buildings in areas that get a goodly amount of snow and rain, then wonder why the roof leaks. Idiocy. It may have been cheaper in the beginning, but I guarantee it has cost more in upkeep over the years to repair the leaks. I once had a room that leaked so badly I had to cover my computer with a tarp when I went home at night. It leaked so badly that we had an actual waterfall flowing down the wall. It leaked so badly that one of the ceiling tiles completely disintegrated overnight, and walked in in the morning to find a sodden pile of pulp and rivulets of water extending all the way to the wall. It took 8 years to get it fixed. I have only had to teach without buckets dotting the floor for two years now.
2. During asbestos abatement, they kept us in the building, which could have been fine. But when the ceiling tile mentioned above disintegrated, it exposed a sign in the ceiling warning of the presence of asbestos. The assistant principal told me that I would only be exposed to a small amount of asbestos and should ignore the sign. Instead, I buttonholed the superintendent the next day at district HQ. It still took a week to get the holw covered.
3. The mold and mildew problem in this building was so bad that one staff member had to have polyps removed from her sinuses. I was placed on three different inhalers after never needing an inhaler before in my life.
4. Mice travel along the dedicated cables for the electrical infrastrure connecting the rooms-- the holes for the cables were too big, and they never re-spackled to seal the holes shut. Now that it is wintertime, I know I will be called on by numerous screaming staff members to catch the mice that invade their rooms, since I believe sticky traps are horrifyingly cruel and am pretty good at catching them.
5. It took me two years to get a maintenance person to fix the window I had with the broken latch. I have previously regaled you with that little tale.
What does it say to our students to spend the day in crumbling facilities? It says that this is is not a serious place for learning. It says that kids are expected to put up with substandard facilities and that they don't matter. Not to mention the fact that this type of environemnt is extremely unhealthy for them. And what does it do to us, the staff? Allergies, asthma attacks, sinus polyps, headaches-- and even worse, time off from work!
Our schools should be clean and safe, inside and out. The AFT has announced a new campaign, entitled "Building Minds, Minding Buildings," and you can find the report and an outline of the program here. If this country can help a major metropolitan area recover from a devastating hurricane-- no wait, scratch that-- if we can help Western Europe recover from the devastation of World War II, we need to be willing to direct just as much effort toward showing that children and education are really part of those vaunted family value everyone likes to talk about so much.