COLUMBUS, Ohio — A 10 Investigates’ review of repair orders inside Columbus City Schools found many repairs took weeks – if not months to address.
Others have languished into this week - when the teachers’ union opted to hit the picket line – going on strike for the first time in more than four decades.
While the strike appears to be a thing of the past – thanks to a tentative deal reached early Thursday between the Columbus Education Association and Columbus City Schools’ board of education – criticism of the poor or deteriorating conditions inside the state’s largest school district became a focal point of the labor fight.
10 Investigates’ review of the repair records appear to mirror many of the teachers’ concerns. Board President Jennifer Adair acknowledged that there is a backlog of maintenance requests, that the district is working to address and the future of upgrading the district’s aging infrastructure will require community support and likely an improvement levy and a bond issue – which taxpayers would have to approve.
Outside one elementary school this week, teachers chanted: “no rats, no bugs, our classrooms should be filled with hugs.”
But repair records show mice or rat droppings have been issues outside two schools where teachers were picketing – West Broad Elementary and Linden STEM Academy.
A repair log from Aug. 15 shows “mouse droppings” were spotted “in the kitchen/lunchroom of Linden STEM Academy…” The log shows crews addressed that issue on Aug. 18.
Photos taken in March by health and safety inspectors with Columbus Public Health found at West Broad Elementary there suspected rodent droppings and rat burrows. A district spokeswoman says those issues the district says were addressed.
Additional photos of leaking or missing ceiling tiles and water intrusion are all indicative of the complaints many teachers raised concerns over.
10 Investigates found some repairs languished for months – some leading up to the days before and into the strike.
At Devonshire Elementary, records show it took the district took seven weeks to repair lead-paint that was found be chipping – that wasn’t repaired until June 28th.
At that same school, a deteriorating brick wall that health inspectors recommended be repaired in March remained untouched until earlier this month - when 10 Investigates found the wall was torn down. There’s no record of that in the repair logs, but the district says it was all part of the summer workflow.
But this month new issues surfaced.
On Aug. 5, a CCS administrator noticed an HVAC roof unit in the gym at Devonshire was “not operating." The repair log shows the administrator was “making sure everything was looking ok due to a press conference/walk through that” was taking place at school the next week.
It’s not clear what press conference was being referred to – 10 Investigates did not attend any at that school.
The records show the problem with HVAC unit is slated to be repaired by Aug. 26.
These examples represent just a few of the many concerns teachers voiced over conditions inside schools in the state’s largest district.
Board President Jennifer Adair said so earlier this week, when asked about repair delays and if the district could do a better job of making more expedient repairs.
"Absolutely. Right, but there's reasons why. I think it's really important to understand why sometimes that happens. First of all through past decision and policy and just where we are, at some point during this district's history had to cut budgets it's operations that got impacted. So we're trying to overcome that. We know right now supply chain issue is a big problem, so we're unable to get parts and pieces for things that we need. We know that our internal system about how tickets are put in, for example are being worked on. There's always room to improve, right,” Adair said.
One repair at Devonshire Elementary appears to have lingered for five months.
An inspector in March observed “several classrooms that had unanchored/secured shelves.” The person recommend (they be) properly secured.
Repairs records show the issue was addressed just yesterday – August 24.
The CCS board of education is expected to hold a special meeting Friday. The teachers’ union is expected this weekend to ratify the tentative agreement that appears to have ended this teacher strike. Classes are expected to resume in-person on Monday, according to a district spokesperson.