Philadelphia School District buildings need $5B in repairs

- Philadelphia Schools are dealing with a financial crisis. The district says it needs billions of dollars for major fixes. The problem - Leaky roofs, broken heating systems and windows that need replacement.

Built in 1931, Dunbar Elementary is on the National Register of Historic places, but age has taken its toll. Those windows --open on a Winter afternoon-- are to vent the heat from a furnace that blasts hot air into classrooms.

But it's not just the furnace, this elementary school of 300 kids has two pools of rain water that forms on its old roof and leaks right into classrooms. 

"When it leaks and I have to double up classes, move them to the library or just relocate them it's an interference to their instructional needs," said Dunbar Elementary Principal Dawn Moore.

The school district says the windows, furnace and leaking roof are among $12,000 of what it calls "outstanding repairs" identified in an assessment of the conditions in district buildings. The stunning price tag: $4.5 billion.

Three billion dollars of which they'll need to spend in the next decade to fix urgent problems. 

Fran Burns, the District's Chief Operating Officer, believes the assessment provides a road map of the district's building repair needs. 

"We understand the need," said Burns. "If there were a place and time for infrastructure investment, we're ready for it."

City schools will have to look to the state legislature to cover some repair costs, a body Mayor Kenney thinks has failed in its commitment to urban education.

"It is a very simple thing to fix and that's increasing the personal income tax in Pennsylvania which is one of the lowest in the country," said Kenney.

Back at Dunbar, patch-work can be seen on walls and ceilings. Construction on a million dollar new roof starts in July. While the principal says she fights to keep her kids focused on learning.

"A young person that comes to our school already goes through a lot of trauma and to come into a school where you have a bucket and water dripping into it periodically and you don't know when that is going to happen, has a major impact on them," said Moore.

Close to three-quarters of the city's public schools are considered in poor condition due to delayed maintenance. About one-third have declined to the point where they have been designated "outside the sustainable funding range."

District officials say repair or closure recommendations for some buildings are not necessarily an indication of future school closures.

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