. . . .The maintenance and repair problems in the District's schools go far beyond heating systems. Students, teachers and administrators in many buildings have endured broken bathrooms, leaking roofs, lead-tainted drinking water, asbestos contamination and rodent infestations, school records show. In some cases, repair requests have gone years without a response.
Some officials say the problems' roots are in the cutbacks in budget and staffing that accelerated during the city's fiscal crises of the past 15 years.
"There hasn't been adequate resources to do any maintenance. Period," said Paul Taylor, who has been deputy director of the schools' facilities department for two years. Moving his hands apart and then closer together, he said: "This is how much you need, this is how much you got. Something is not going to get done."
Sarah Woodhead, who ran the facilities department from 2001 to 2003, said slashed budgets forced her to focus on emergencies and ignore preventive maintenance. "It's not just a risky thing to do; it's a guaranteed failure," she said. "I think it's a tragic situation."
Since 1996, the number of engineers licensed to run the boilers has dwindled from 400 to 140, said John Woodall, secretary-treasurer of the union representing the workers. Licensed engineers are the only school employees who can operate the boilers, and, in the past, each school had its own engineer. Now engineers oversee multiple buildings and boilers.
"Things are set up to deteriorate," Woodall said. . . .