Call for Action on Lowell School Repairs
LOWELL -- School principals describe boarded windows, crumbling stairs, moldy walls and fire code violations at district schools in a report presented to the Lowell School Committee Wednesday night.
The update, which lists the top eight to 12 needs at each facility, is the latest document in an ongoing discussion of the condition of school buildings
School Committee member Jackie Doherty requested a list of the top 10 most pressing facility issues at each school in February amid a winter of closures and heating issues at Lowell High School.
“My intention was to try to give us some focus, because if we look at the pile of work orders it’s a ridiculous document,” she said.
Though the school district uses the buildings, almost all are owned by the city, a setup that can create tension between the two entities. City Manager Eileen Donoghue said the district is responsible for custodial services, like cleaning, and the city is responsible for repairs.
She said she has not seen the list presented to the School Committee, but she is in communication with the district regarding building problems. Donoghue attributes these problems to years of inadequate staffing levels and deferred maintenance.
“These are very real and ongoing needs of the city when it comes to capital plans,” she said.
Donoghue said a consultant is completing a review of city and school buildings to develop a feasibility study of maintenance needs.
“We’re going to have to take a very hard look at it with all of our capital needs,” she said.
In the meantime, the city and district are addressing the “most critical needs,” she said.
A five-year capital plan developed last spring includes repairs to school buildings, though this does not cover everything, she said.
School Committee member Robert Hoey Jr. said he is happy with the the city’s current approach to these issues.
“I think the city manager has got us in a good direction right now,” he said.
Doherty asked to review this document and prioritize items at an upcoming facilities subcommittee meeting. She said she would like to eventually hold a joint subcommittee meeting with the City Council to discuss the topic, but does not want to wait for this to be scheduled.
“I had a motion like two years ago to try to meet with the City Council facilities subcommittee,” Doherty said. “It’s not happening. So we need to start here with our facilities subcommittee.”
Issues with heating and cooling systems made an appearance on many of the principal’s lists, as did faulty locks or other door hardware.
A report from the Edward J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management released in July on city and school building needs found a “remarkable” number of work orders for broken doors in the Lowell Public Schools.
Of the listed items, School Operations and Maintenance Director Rick Underwood said some have already been repaired. He is working with the Department of Public Works to address the issue.
“We’ll either address it ... by importance or we will go by alphabetical order and just go school by school,” he said. “A lot of these things are easily fixed. Some are a little more difficult. The roof repairs, as you know, are in the five-year capital plan so those will take a bit longer.”
A selection of other building needs as described by school administrators and included in the lists presented to the School Committee Wednesday are as follows. (The document can be found at lowellma.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/6642?fileID=16900 .)
* Exterior sidewalks and stairs are crumbling at Bailey Elementary School. Exterior doors do not lock when shut.
* A kindergarten room at Bartlett Middle School has a “giant crack” and rodent problem. Marble walls in the bathrooms have large cracks and sinks are in danger of falling out.
* A bathroom in the boy’s locker room at Butler Middle School has been closed since the pipes froze last school year. Toilets and sinks were removed, but have not been remounted.
* Fuses blow regularly at the Career Academy and the heating system is broken or unregulated. The area where gym class is held has potholes and other “uneven terrain.”
* The Fire Department has filed “numerous” violations at Daley Middle School where several doors, including the front and fire doors, do not open properly. Several floors need repairs after a pipe burst.
* The preschool bathroom at Lincoln Elementary School needs back splashes to prevent mold on the walls. The school is also missing a fire door to the gym. Many door handles are broken.
*“Numerous” injuries have occurred at the front stair entrance at Fort Hill Avenue at Moody Elementary School, which requires a movable railing. Administrators also list multiple fire code violations at the school.
* An issue with a door at Murkland Elementary School has led to a short in the fire system.
* Steady rain shuts down the gym at Pawtucketville Memorial Elementary School, due to a roof leak that creates puddles on the floor.
* The Pyne Arts Magnet School requires a new roof and black mold mitigation in one wing of the building. Seven windows are broken and boarded.
* Plumbing issues under the building have caused tiles to loosen and crack in eight classrooms at Reilly Elementary School. A room flooded in the 2016/17 school year needs a new floor.
* A fire door in the gym of Robinson Middle School contains asbestos and needs replacing.
* Shaughnessy Elementary School has leaks and mold around skylights. A staircase outside the first grade wing is “crumbling.”
Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins.