District of Columbia Draft Emergency Supplemental Funding Request for District of Columbia Public Schools

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-05-05.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

      United States
GAO   General Accounting Office
      Washington, D-C. 20648

      Health, Education   and Human Services Division


      May 6, 1997
      The Honorable Charles H. Taylor
      Chairman, Subcommittee on the
       District of Columbia
      Committee on Appropriations
      House of Representatives

      Subject: District of Columbia Draft Emerrrencv Sunplemental Funding
               Reauestfor District of Columbia Public Schools
      Dear Mr. Chairman:

      On April 11, 1997,the Subcommittee received a draft request for emergenc#
      supplemental federal funds to improve its public school facilities. This request
      for supplemental funds was made by the DC. Financial Responsibility and
      ManagementAssistanceAuthority on behalf of the District of Columbia Public
      Schools @G’S).
      DCPS, which has more than 160 schools, has requested $36.86million in
      supplemental funding for emergencypublic school facility improvements.
      DCPS has defined emergency,or critical, repairs as those repairs that if not
      done could result in schools closing for health and safety reasons. Major
      critical repairs include replacing roofs, boilers, and chillers, bringing facilities
      into compliance with requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act, and
      removing underground storage tanks. According to DCPS, $86.9 million is
      required to make critical repairs to ensure that all schools will be ready to open
      for the 1997-98school year. Of this amount, $49.76million is potentially

      ‘This is the terminology used in the request. We did not independently assess
      the appropriateness of this wording.
                                             GAO/REM&97-116R   DCPS Draft Supplemental   Request
You asked us to review the details supporting the request. The information in
this correspondence is based on (1) our past work on the condition of
America’s schools,2(2) a review of documents DCPS and the Authority
provided in support of the request, and (3) discussions with DCPS and the
General ServicesAdministration (GSA), which has estimated repair costs for
each DCPS school facility.
In summary, we found no reason to challenge the validity of DCPS’ need for
critical capita3improvements. DCPS’ estimate of the cost of these
improvements-$86.9 million, $36.86million of which it is now requesting to
cover its fiscal year 1997funding shortfall-seems reasonable based on available
data We did not address the issue, however, of whether other, more
appropriate sources of funding are available.

DCPS has developed a capital improvement plan for completing emergency
school repairs by September 1997and has hired a chief operating
officer/director of facilities. Given the scope of the repairs required, however,
and the number of schools involved, DCPSmay not have enough staff to
effectively oversee an effort of this magnitude in such a short time period. In
addition, although DCPS officials said that they have been talking to major
construction firms about construction managementand precertifying individual
contractors to execute the plan, the scopes of work and timing for each project
in the plan have not yet been developed.


In a 1994nationwide study of the condition of America’s schools, we
documented the less-than-adequatecondition of the District of Columbia’s
public schools. Ninety-seven percent of District schools reported a need to
upgrade or repair on-site buildings to good overall condition. At the time of our
study, DCPS’ facilities manager reported that the schools, which had an average
age of 60 years, were structurally sound, but older buildings housed old-
sometimes original-systems, such as the heating and air conditioning or
electrical systems, which had major repair problems. For example, old boiler
 systemshad steam leakages that caused such infrastructure erosion that whole

2SchoolFacilities: Condition of America’s Schools (GAO/HEHS-9b61,Feb. 1,
1996);School Facilities: America’s Schools ReDOrtDiffering Conditions
(GAOBIEHS-96-103,June 14, 1996);and School Facilities: Profiles of School
Condition bv State (GAOIHEHS-96-148,June 24, 1996).
2                                  GAO/HEHS-97-116R   DCPS Draft Supplemental   Request
school wings had been condemned and cordoned off; leaky roofs were causing
ceilings to crumble onto teachers’ and students’ desks; and fire doors were
warped and could not be opened and closed. In addition, at that time, DCPS
was under court order to fix the most serious of the estimated $90 million
worth of fire code violations by the start of the 199496 school year. In 1994,
the facilities manager estimated that at least $460million was needed to make

In 1996,the Congressrequested GSA to do a complete study of the District
schools. In response, GSA updated a 1991study done by a contractor who had
inspected all the schools. GSA then developed a detailed list on a school-by-
school and repair-by-repair basis of work needed and its cost. The recent draft
emergency supplementa appropriation request is based on GSA’s work and
DCPS plan-which includes the prioritization of types and timing of repairs at
individual schools-for fixing emergencyfacility problems.

DCPS officials consider the supplemental request necessaryto complete the
first phase of its three-phased school modernization and revitalization plan,
which addressesimmediate fiscal year 1997needs. The priority given to the
types of repairs specified in the first phase of the plan appears to be
appropriate. These repairs include those identified as critical and, if not done,
could result in school closings. The second phase of the plan involves what
DCPS has termed “short-term” needs and identifies repairs, replacements, and
improvements needed during fiscal years 1998and 1999. During this phase,
planning will begin on modernizing schools and disposal of excess space should
progress. To meet the requirements of the District of Columbia School Reform
Act of 1996,DCPS has to develop a Long Range Facilities Master Plan. This
long-term plan includes the final phase, slated for fiscal years 2000-07,to
revitalize school facilities and property. According to a DCPS official, the Long
Range Facilities Master Plan was submitted to the Congresson April 26, 1997.
Although our work on the condition of America’s schools and GSA’swork
support the need for massive school facility repairs, another significant issue is
the potential inability of DCPSto manage the magnitude of work involved in
doing these repairs in the next 6 months. This effort will involve repairs in 44
schools with up to five contractors working at each school, according to DCPS
officials. DCPS currently has 14 staff to manage what amotmts to more than
200 projects. DCPS expects to soon hire 13 additional staff to help manage
these projects. However, given the extremely short time frame for completing
these projects and the time needed to orient and organize the new staff, it
remains to be seen how effectively they-along with the existing staff-will be
able to manage this large workload.

3                                 GAO/HEHS-97-116R   DCPS Draft Supplemental   Request
The District of Columbia Public schools reviewed a draft of this letter and
concurred with our assessmentof cost issues. The Chief Operating
Officer/Director of Facilities reiterated his position that the school system has
the ability to tackle present needs and will have in place a fully functional team
by the end of May. He also stated that the system intends to obligate the $86.6
million by September 30, 1997.

We are sending copies of this’ correspondenceto the Subcommittee’s Ranking
Minority Member. As agreed with your office, we plan no further distribution
of this correspondencefor 30 days unless its contents are made public before
then. At that time, we will send copies to interested parties and make copies
available to others upon request.
This correspondence was prepared by Eleanor Johnson and Harriet Ganson,
Assistant Directors, and Joan Denomme, Senior Evaluator. Please call me on
(202) 612-7014if you or your staff have any questions.
Sincerely yours,

Carlotta C. Joyner
Director, Education and
 Employment Issues

4                                  GAO/HRHS-97-116R   DCPS Draft Supplemental   Request
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