Dan Sapia shuts off water to the fire sprinklers at Hoover Street Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified school district. His plumbing crew is often pulled from one emergency job, such as repairing this water main leak, to another, leaving little time for outstanding requests.
Dan Sapia, left, consults Christopher Cadena while working on a leaking water main at Hoover Street Elementary School. The Los Angeles Unified School District plumbing crew estimated that the repair would take three days. Until the water main feeding the fire sprinklers is fixed, the school has someone on fire watch at all hours of the day.
From burned out light bulbs and cracked concrete to compromised fire safety systems and exposed electrical wiring, Los Angeles Unified schools are waiting on 116,000 maintenance and safety problems reported since January, records show, and officials said they don't have the staff or money to fix them all.
An analysis of 165,400 repair requests filed with the school district this year showed less than a third have been addressed.
"We are very short staffed," said Roger Finstad, head of maintenance and operations at L.A. Unified. "We're operating at less than half the funding we had just about six years ago."
L.A. Unified set aside about $100 million for repairs this year, but Finstad said it would cost about $400 million every year to get all the work done.
The state used to require schools to reserve 3 percent of funds for upkeep. During the recession, that requirement was removed to give schools more flexibility. If the mandate was still in place, L.A. Unified would have to double funds for maintenance and repairs this year.
courtesy of Karla Johnson
Spanish teacher Karla Johnson takes the classroom temperature at Franklin High School in L.A.'s Highland Park. She says she's been complaining about faulty air conditioning for 10 years.
L.A. Unified says it has air conditioning in all 32,000 school district classrooms, but 2,000 pending service calls have turned the current heat wave into a repair crisis.
On Monday, at Franklin High School in Highland Park, the conditions were sweltering.
"I have a temperature gun and the highest temperature inside the classroom was 92 degrees,” Spanish teacher Karla Johnson said.
That’s too hot for her students to learn.
“They are having problems concentrating, they’re falling asleep, they’re sweating. I can see sweat dripping down their face while I’m trying to teach them,” Johnson said, adding the air-conditioning problems aren’t new. She's been complaining about the situation for 10 years.
What's it going to take to lower classroom temperatures to a level where learning can go on?
California Attorney General Kamala Harris unveils a report on chronic absences among elementary school students.
As many as 250,000 California elementary students missed 10 percent of the past school year or roughly 18 or more days, numbers that a report released by Attorney General Kamala Harris called alarming.
Most troubling are high absences among low-income and African-American students, said Harris, speaking at a Friday news conference at the Malabar Street Elementary School in East Los Angeles.
“Students of color and high-need children are at an extreme risk," Harris said. "What we have found, and new research has unveiled, is that African-American students are far more likely to miss school than their peers.”
One in five black students are absent more than 18 days out of the school year, according to the In School + On Track report. And nearly all of the students who missed more than a month of school per year came from low-income families.
Jack Lyons/flickr Creative Commons
The Los Angeles County Office of Education approved L.A. Unified's $7.3 billion budget this week after county officials raised concerns the district may be misrepresenting its financial figures.
This school year, L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy is channeling more than half of the $837 million in state funds for low-income students, English learners and foster youth into the special education program, arguing 80 percent of the special education students fall into one or more of the three targeted groups.
Under California's Local Control Funding law, counties are required to sign off on school districts' spending plans for these high-need students. In late August, Los Angeles county officials asked L.A. Unified to "provide rationale that supports the identification of these expenditures."
It’s a small coup for the institute, which began working in Watts in 2007 and is best known for the 10 preschool sites it runs in the community. Yet it offers more than just free preschool.
In space once occupied by the closed Los Angeles County South Health Clinic, the institute is pulling together clinical and mental health services, family services such as parenting training, and youth development programs that include art classes and leadership training. Parents walk in the door to sign up for Head Start and often access other needed services.
“Children’s Institute in an arrangement with the county was able to take over the space and we have renovated one of the two buildings in order to provide our blend of youth development and clinical and family support services here at this site,” said Nina Revoyr, the institute’s executive vice president.