Repair 'Blitz' Expected to Last Well Beyond Summer

Hoyong Kwon, an architectural engineer with Smoot Construction Co., examines an air duct needing repairs at Scott Montgomery Elementary School in Northwest Washington. (By Michel Du Cille -- The Washington Post)
By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The acting director of a new school construction agency said yesterday that repairs to 119 of the District's crumbling public schools will not be completed until the fall or, in some cases, December -- a schedule that breaks Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's promise to have school repairs done by Aug. 27, the first day of school.

Allen Y. Lew, who is expected to be confirmed by the D.C. Council today, said at a council hearing that initial cost estimates prepared by D.C. Public Schools officials were off. Work orders were also incomplete and did not reflect all necessary repairs, he said.

Two weeks ago, Fenty (D) said in an interview that he wanted repairs finished at all 141 schools to make "things noticeably different when people go in on the first day of school."

Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) asked Lew at a hearing yesterday if that would be the case.

"No, that's not going to happen," Lew said.

In an interview, Lew gave examples of the kinds of deficiencies that spurred him to take a second look at the repair programs even before Fenty took control of the school system last month, such as a work order for a leaking roof that failed to include installing gutters to prevent further leaks. "Some of the bathrooms are not going to be in working order in the fall," he said.

Although repairs at three schools have been completed, work at 34 other schools in the $75 million "blitz" effort will be delayed.

"The blitz program is somewhat messy," he told the council. "At this point, I'm really trying to salvage this whole summer program."

Lew said he needs an additional $10.5 million to complete the work in both the blitz and another repair program. He said the money will likely be taken from a District emergency fund.

Half of the repairs should be done by time classes start, he said.

Council members said yesterday that Lew's report reinforced the council's decision to support Fenty's plan to take over all aspects of education, including school construction. If Lew is confirmed, he will supervise a $2.3 billion school modernization project.

"It's just an indication of why we need a separate entity to oversee school construction and modernization," said council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), a former school board member.

"Thank God we've got a change coming," said council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8). "Things are even worse than I thought."

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