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School Buildings Report Delayed

Committee's Findings Expected In October

De La Torre, Vanessa

September 06, 2013

-- A report from the school board's committee investigating the condition of city school buildings has been pushed to October.

The ad hoc panel, formed in June after a partial classroom ceiling collapse at McDonough Expeditionary Learning School, was expected to present its findings later this month.

Time constraints have led to a delay, said Richard Wareing, the committee's chairman.

"There's still a lot of work to do," Wareing said this week.

The group has met three times, most recently on Aug. 14, to discuss ways to improve maintenance and oversight in a district that includes more than three dozen school buildings, from aging neighborhood schools to newly renovated magnet and city schools. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.

One possibility is commissioning a professional facilities study that could cost up to $100,000 and provide a blueprint for prioritizing needs in the district, school officials said.

The committee -- a mix of school board members, city and school administrators and community advocates -- has also discussed creating a districtwide standard for janitorial work and school maintenance, "so we all have the same definition of 'clean' and 'well-repaired,' " Wareing said.

Among other committee ideas: Establishing a formal policy for regular inspections at schools and creating school-based groups of staff, parents and community members who would help keep their schools clean and report any structural concerns.

Committee member Claudio Bazzano, the school system's executive director of facilities, said in July that a short-staffed maintenance crew is responsible for 43 buildings across the district. There are 26 people who work for him now, he said, compared to the 61-employee department that existed about a decade ago before budget cuts shrunk the district's central office.

School board Chairman Matthew Poland ordered the review of building conditions following the McDonough incident that left a teaching intern and 13-year-old student with minor injuries. Part of the ceiling in a second-floor classroom, and the lighting fixture attached to it, collapsed near the end of the school day June 6.

McDonough received about $80,000 worth of repairs this summer, including the replacement of four classroom ceilings and new lighting in that area.

While McDonough underwent a $15 million renovation in the mid-1990s, records showed that the affected cluster of classrooms was not renovated, and that it might have been several decades since that area of the building was last touched up, according to Bazzano.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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