In June, I toured 13 DCPS schools and 8 DPR centers across DC as part of my oversight work with the Facilities & Family Services Committee. Our goal was to identify systemic issues in building maintenance — and to ensure DCPS readiness for the fall and DPR readiness for summer.
We identified several systemic issues that DGS, DPR, and DCPS all need to all work together to address. Many of these issues have come up before in our Committee oversight hearings and other site visits to schools and recreation centers.
I’m laying them out here:
- HVAC Issues. DGS has invested heavily in addressing HVAC issues, but a number of schools and rec centers still have malfunctioning systems. DGS pledged to do everything in their power to improve conditions before the new school year and conduct more preventative maintenance.
- Active Security Threats. Across the 21 sites, we observed broken locks, doors, security cameras, alarm systems, and problems with getting new keys. These widespread issues are why our Committee advanced and funded the School Security and Transparency Act by Councilmember Robert White.
- Inadequate Trash or Recycling Collection. Community members cited infrequent or inadequate waste collections across all sites, and we observed overflowing bins during most tours. I’m advising DGS to coordinate with DPW and DPR to boost service levels to keep our facilities clean.
- Salesforce Miscommunication. DCPS and DGS face issues with work order management in Salesforce due to inconsistent practices, inadequate training, and incomplete form information. And local school staff are still not receiving notifications for the work orders they submit.
- Data Quality Concerns. The list of open work orders for each visit often included resolved or duplicate requests, particularly at rec centers. DGS’s new “LAST Team” will address data cleanup, but we also need improved communication with frontline staff for accurate records.
- Pest Control Issues. Pest control issues were observed at multiple DCPS and DPR sites during site visits, indicating gaps in the current pest management process. DPR and DCPS should prioritize regular visits by DGS teams to all sites and augment efforts to mitigate pest infestations.
- Ambiguous Agency Ownership. Action is often delayed because it is unclear whether DGS, DPR, DCPS, or DDOT is responsible for correcting a specific problem. We need the agencies to come together, sort through these ‘sticky’ issues, and establish standard operating procedures.
- Bathroom Supply Challenges. Some sites also have irregular replenishments of bathroom supplies, which can be avoided with better coordination between DGS and DPR’s site-based staff. DCPS should consider allocating bathroom and health supplies through a separate funding stream.
- “Triage Mode.” The plans for DGS’ summer blitz were still being developed in late June — when work ideally should already be underway. I’m encouraging DGS to begin planning earlier in the year to maximize our summer window for getting work done.
- Better Communication for Issues “On Hold.” Work orders are often placed “on hold” due to their complexity, funding needs, or need to procure a special part. But frontline staff or residents are often not informed about the status of the work order, causing confusion and delays.
- Routine Repairs Delayed. Work orders are supposed to be addressed within 45 days, but 77%+ of open work orders at sites we toured were open for longer than 45 days — including high priority work orders that should be completed in 10 days. DGS committed to doing better here.
We are confronting these issues through oversight and collaboration with DGS — but also through our policies and budgets. Our Committee increased funding for repairs, preventative maintenance, hiring more trade employees and strengthening school security.
As Committee Chair, I created a checklist for readiness standards every DC school should meet:
I am urgently calling on DGS and DCPS to intensify summer repair efforts so that all of our schools can meet at least a basic level of readiness. Facility readiness was also the focus of our confirmation hearing for Acting DGS Director Hunter last week:
Thank you to my Council colleagues, DC State Board of Education representatives, ANC Commissioners, school leaders, educators, parents, and community members who joined our readiness tours. Your first-hand insights helped us better understand and address the issues at our schools and rec centers.
Even as we press for major improvements in maintenance, we recognize the incredible work being done in our schools and rec centers every day — and the dedicated agency personnel at DGS, DPR, and DCPS who help coordinate all of it.
Let’s keep working together to get this right.