School Buildings Left Behind in Decay
What would you do if your child attended a school that had mice, peeling paint, exposed wiring, clogged air vents, corroded radiators, crumbling floor tiles, no fire sprinkler system and a roof that leaks water into light fixtures, classrooms and the school cafeteria?
Horace Anding, PTA president at Green Valley Elementary School in Temple Hills, held a news conference last week during which he displayed recent photographs of those decrepit conditions. At a PTA meeting the next day, he and other parents agreed to think about what else they could do to get a safe school for their children.
Well, I have a few suggestions:
First, stop throwing out the mice and roaches that get caught in the traps. Save them. Try to catch some live ones, too.
Next, write letters to Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson, County Council Chairman Peter A. Shapiro and county schools chief Andre J. Hornsby requesting that Green Valley be replaced with a new school or at least completely renovated.
If there is no satisfactory response, haul out the mice and bugs. Drop them off at the offices of those who are responsible for using your tax dollars to provide your children with decent schools.
A roomful of mice would make for a very squeaky wheel, not to mention a good news conference.
And don't stop with county officials. State Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah lives a few blocks from Green Valley Elementary. She should be ashamed.
Lawlah is known to put up fierce fights for state funds when she wants to impress her constituents. Make her want to impress her neighbors. Remind her that Green Valley serves as a polling place on Election Day and that she's not the only one who votes there.
According to county school officials, Green Valley is 10th on a list of 41 county schools slated for repairs during the next fiscal year. (That means nine other schools, incredibly, are in worse condition.)
All Green Valley will get, however, is "partial roof repair" -- just patchwork, as usual.
Adding to the insult, a Web site marketing a new housing development near Green Valley, built by Washington Homes Inc., lists the school among the "area highlights" and features a photograph of white, elementary school-age children working at a new computer.
The real Green Valley, which hasn't been renovated since it was built in 1956, is not wired for computers. Anding said the school has no white students, either.
Green Valley parents might want to put up a Web site of their own featuring Anding and his photo display of water-stained ceilings, peeling paint and air vents clogged with mystery dust.
"The maintenance people keep coming in to patch things up, but as soon as it rains, the roof starts leaking again," Anding told me. "As for the peeling paint, we don't know if it's lead-based or not, or whether that's asbestos clogging up the air vents. When you're breathing thick dust at 5, 6 and 7 years old, and nothing's being done about it . . ."
Anding began to fume. He has two daughters, in second and third grades, at Green Valley.
If such a Web site was linked to the one for Washington Homes, perhaps developers would become more aware of the problems at Green Valley Elementary and find ways to help make it a genuine highlight.
Imagine concerned parents at all of the county's 41 schools on the repair list organizing for action. Together, they could catch enough rodents for every government official having anything to do with providing quality education in Prince George's. That includes Secretary of Education Roderick R. Paige, the Bush administration yes man when it comes to slashing education funds.
They could enclose photos of Green Valley students trying to concentrate on schoolwork while wearing overcoats in cold classrooms. And make sure Paige sees photos of those who got left behind because their schools made them too sick to attend class.
As for President Bush himself, if he shows up again in Prince George's County for church with black people on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, don't just grin with him. Tell him about the liberation movement underway in county schools.
Let him know that victory won't even require the use of a fancy bomber -- just the funds it would take to build one.
Decrepit School Is an Insult To Our Children
June 9, 2003
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