October 11 — 6:15 pm, 2017

John B. Kelly Elementary to remain closed until Wednesday as District works to clean up mold problem

kelly leaky roof Greg Windle

Updated Monday at 5:08 pm

John B. Kelly Elementary School in Germantown will reopen on Wednesday as the District tries to clean up mold it says was found last week at the school, but the teachers’ union claims it has complained about the mold problem "long before" now. Tuesday will be used for a final clean up day.

A statement from the School District said that "traces of mold were found in several classrooms" and attributed the problem to "heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) issues."

Officials were made aware of the issue Wednesday and, according to a statement, investigated and began remediation efforts immediately. 

But the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers issued a statement accusing the District of "failure to implement a system to effectively address maintenance issues at Kelly and too many other Philadelphia schools," and claimed that the PFT and staff had "reported mold and other issues to the District long before it became a news story this week."

A Notebook reporter and photographer visited Kelly for a story on teacher Stephen Flemming last March — featuring him one of the relatively few black male teachers in the District — and took photos of a leak in the roof and a yellow trash bucket that was used to collect the leaking water. Flemming said at the time that he had been complaining about the leak, but a work order to fix it had been languishing for a while. 

He also said that he had to stop using music in his classroom because the electrical outlet he used to hook up the player was in that corner and had become unusable.  

Spokesman Lee Whack disputed the PFT statement that the District knew about mold problems at the school before Wednesday.

"We meet regularly, we reached out to them on Wednesday," he said, speaking of PFT officials. "I don’t know of any other communication on this issue."

In a statement Thursday afternoon, the District said: "Working with a highly qualified and experienced environmental remediation contractor, work began to remove the problem at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday. At this moment roughly 80% of the remediation has been completed." 

Classes are canceled for students, and staff members will be working from Hill-Freedman World Academy, 1100 E. Mount Pleasant Ave., until the building is determined to be free of mold. 

He said the District checkes for water leaks and mold twice a year in all schools.

A mold outbreak at Muñoz-Marín Elementary School over the summer nearly delayed the opening of school. Officials attributed that mold to problems with ventilation and air conditioning, as well. 

A recent Facilities Condition Assessment of the District’s inventory of nearly 300 buildings found that $4.5 billion in deferred maintenance had accumulated.



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