Philly council advances ordinance regulating lead paint in school

Philly council advances ordinance regulating lead paint in school

Author: Marco Cerino/Tuesday, December 4, 2018/Categories: Philadelphia

Philadelphia’s Committee on Licenses and Inspections passed a bill creating guidelines for regulating and inspecting lead paint in schools Monday.

First introduced by Councilman Mark Squilla (D-District 1), the measure establishes a new certificate of inspection for these buildings and outlines how these should take place. It also recognizes an advisory group that includes advocates, the district, and the teachers union to suggest further legislation.

The issue has drawn significant attention, considering how many students in Philadelphia use older buildings that still contain lead paint. Helping the efforts is a $7.5 million grant from the state to the district, assisted by State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia).

Philadelphia School District COO Danielle Floyd testified to the various portions of testing and associated costs. She also noted how important it was to codify the process and expectations.

“We should just have expectations that goes throughout the organization in terms of what we prioritize that gets done in schools,” she said. “It’s something we have to do.”

Squilla introduced this bill earlier in the year but held it in committee while he waited on more input from other entities.

“This process will make it safer for everyone in the schools of Philadelphia,” he said as the hearings began.

The process began during the summer at schools like Clara Barton Elementary in the Feltonville neighborhood.

Principal Colleen Bowen described the experience of working with inspectors and cleaning teams to survey the K-2 school and prepare it for the upcoming school year.

She highlighted the constant communications with those surveying the project. Even with the district starting in late August, things got done ahead of schedule and before the first day of classes.

Philadelphia has a need to upgrade schools and ensure safer conditions for students. Many buildings in use are decades old and still have lead paint.

One study found 1,400 micrograms of lead dust per square foot in a school, substantially higher than the federal guidelines of 10 micrograms per square foot.

The hearings Monday carried the tenor set last week when council members met formally with the newly elected school board. After years of acrimony and mistrust with the state-enforced School Reform Commission, cooperating and problem solving have become priorities for the two bodies.

Squilla cited contributions from groups like the Philly Healthy Schools Initiative and Coalition in helping craft this bill and moving the conversation forward.

Marco Cerino a staff writer for The PLS Reporter based in Philadelphia. Have a question, comment or tip? Email him at marco@mypls.com.

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