A boiler explosion inside a city school that severely burned a maintenance worker was just one example of a case that spurred a hearing commissioned by City Councilman Derek Green Thursday, calling for the re-examination of physical safety in Philadelphia public schools.
It was in the afternoon of Jan. 13, while classes were in session, when Chris Trakimas, a boiler mechanic with 32BJ SEIU, was injured after a boiler in Franklin S. Edmonds School exploded, injuring him and another building engineer.
Green said Thursday that he felt compelled to introduce the legislation calling for the hearing because every student, teacher, maintenance worker, or any other type of school district employee should not be working in buildings suffering from unsafe conditions.
“Chris is still in a very precarious health situation,” Green said Thursday.
“It prompted me to have a conversation with the school district on what’s the status of our physical safety of our school buildings.”
City Controller Alan Butkovitz, who has conducted frequent inspections of school facilities over the last decade and has found a number of inconsistencies, sent his first deputy, Bill Rubin, to Council chamber Thursday to testify.
“We reviewed 20 selected schools from across the city and uncovered several conditions that were deemed hazardous, unhealthy – and downright deplorable. It is unfathomable to think that teachers and children are subject to these conditions in our city’s learning environments,” said Rubin.
“With that said, there was an upside to counter these bleak findings. Unlike prior school district administrations that did not feel it was necessary to utilize our reports, Superintendent Dr. [William] Hite and his team made a coordinated effort to make several necessary repairs and improvements over the summer break before the students returned to school.”
While Thursday’s hearing was only, in part, the beginning of the discussion about fixing what’s broken within city schools, Green said it was an important one.
“The bottom line is, the school district has not had dollars for a number of years to make major capital investments…We need to have a more strategic plan in reference to what we’re going to do with our school infrastructure.
“As we go through the budget process, these are the questions we’ll ask.”