Clifford B. Janey toured three Northwest schools that have been criticized for deteriorating conditions and maintenance problems yesterday and vowed to open the buildings on time.
The impromptu tour provided Janey, 58, who was named D.C. school superintendent last week, with a firsthand look at a major source of frustration for many parents and community leaders -- the crumbling state of some school buildings.
He said he was optimistic that the problems at the three schools could be fixed by Sept. 1, when the city's public schools are to open. "We're going to have to triple our efforts to get this done," he said.
Janey expressed shock and dismay following an afternoon walk-through of Barnard Elementary, an 18-month-old school that cost about $24 million. "This is totally unacceptable," he said, standing in the lobby of the Petworth school, where peeling paint and water stains marred the ceiling. Janey complained of seeing standing water on the roof and smelling a foul odor in an elevator. Stepping over duct work and pipes as he walked on the roof, he later pointed out spots of algae and inspected a drain that had been clogged.
Janey visited two other schools yesterday -- Rudolph Elementary on Second Street NW and Roosevelt Senior High School on 13th Street NW. He said that Roosevelt is an older building that has cooling problems and that Rudolph was in the most dire disrepair, with a leaky roof and other issues. "It looked like a building . . . residing in a Third World country," he said of Rudolph.
D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4), whose district includes the three schools, commended Janey for his quick response and eagerness to get the problems fixed. "I think he handled it well by physically getting out there," Fenty said of Janey. "Oftentimes, superintendents are a little bit removed from problems."
Fenty said the trouble at Barnard has included inoperable urinals, poor drainage from the roof that led to a leak and odors stemming from mold. A schools operations official said water to the urinals was inadvertently turned off and the odor stemmed from a hole in a vent pipe.
Fenty and Janey will take part in a community meeting to address the issues at Barnard at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversaw design and construction of the red-brick-and-concrete Barnard building. Sigal Construction Corp. was the prime contractor.
Mike Rogers, program manager for the Corps of Engineers' support to D.C. public schools, said the agency has been working with schools officials to evaluate the problems at Barnard and get them resolved quickly. He said some of the potential causes of the leak on the roof that they are looking into are roof drains clogged with debris and a plugged-up drain from an air-handling unit.
"I think it's a high-quality building that has a few issues we're working to iron out," Rogers said. "They're certainly frustrating problems, especially if they're allowed to linger. They're definitely problems that can be resolved." Rogers said he had not heard of problems with the roof at Rudolph. Work was done on the roof by a Corps of Engineers contractor in 2001.
Sigal representatives could not be reached for comment late yesterday.
Janey said those involved in the maintenance and construction of Barnard would be held accountable, but he did not single out any individual or group. He and Fenty were critical not only of the quality of the work but of the lack of oversight they said contributed to the problems.
Janey, who remains superintendent-designate until negotiations are finalized with the D.C. Board of Education, is not yet on the payroll. He said he wanted to spend his personal time -- he cut short his vacation in New Hampshire's White Mountains -- looking at the problems. "The superintendency is more mission than job," he said.