Detroit Public Schools Community District will begin the school year with the majority of its facilities up to code, but will still face challenges with enrollment and staffing.
Of DPSCD’s 94 buildings, 86 are “100% compliant” with the City of Detroit’s building code, Mayor Mike Duggan told reporters today alongside DPSCD Transition Manger Steven Rhodes and Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriwether.
In January, several Detroit teachers took to social media to bring attention to hazardous, deteriorating school buildings, with complaints ranging from faulty heating systems in freezing weather, to rats and mold and other health hazards, to falling ceiling tiles and other unsightly blemishes.
The Duggan administration ordered then-Detroit Public Schools, which has since rebranded as DPSCD after bankruptcy, to fix up the buildings. The district spent $2.5 million, buoyed from a grant from the Children’s Hospital Foundation, making repairs.
Lead-testing in DPSCD facilities also found elevated lead levels in 21 schools, sometimes due to brass fixtures or outdated pipes, Duggan said. Those repairs also have been made and there are no elevated levels of lead in any DPSCD facility, he said.
Eight buildings, including Breithaupt Career and Technical Center, Cody High School, Detroit International Academy for Women, Emerson Elementary-Middle, Mann Learning Community, Sampson Webber, Turning Point Academy and Vernor Academy, are still in need of roof repair. Repairs are expected to be completed by the end of September, district officials said today.
Rhodes and Meriwether expressed confidence about the forthcoming school year, which starts September 6, but Meriwether forecast a 1.2% enrollment drop based on preliminary data from district demographers.
But, she said, “more than 70 families at every school have enrolled” during a recent round of open houses held this summer. Meriwether noted that many students may be enrolling in DPSCD from charter schools.
“The school that closed recently, we worked with the administration there to find space for those students,” Meriwether said. But when asked if DPSCD realistically had space for a potential influx of students, “we will find the space,” she added.
The district is also facing a potential teacher shortage. Meriwether says she has calls “daily” to track teachers who may be retiring or leaving the district before the school year starts. A teacher fair will be held in September to attract potential new teachers to the district.
Rhodes addressed concerns about funding for the 2016-17 school years. “Our budget is balanced to provide to classrooms what teachers need,” he says.