December 20, 2023
The boiler at South Philadelphia High School is so old that it’s difficult to find replacement parts when something breaks.
There’s no air-conditioning — often a problem in sweltering June and September in the five-story school that occupies an entire city block on South Broad Street — and there’s an outdated electrical system, with lights often shorting out, student Azir Athy said.
Five months ago, Pennsylvania lawmakers toured the school to underscore what they said was a desperate need for significant investment in school buildings across the state. On Wednesday, they came back to tout $175 million in new state money just for that purpose.
State Rep. Jordan Harris (D., Philadelphia), the majority chair of the House Appropriations Committee, called it a “first step.”
“Far too many young people are coming to schools that are actively making them sick,” Harris said at a news conference outside the South Philadelphia High auditorium. “We as a commonwealth must do better.”
Originally, House Democrats proposed $250 million to fix school buildings; the $175 million was a compromise reached this month.
The issue is personal to State Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler (D., Philadelphia): Her children attend Southwark Elementary, a Philadelphia school that had to temporarily shut this year because of asbestos issues. For a time, Southwark students were moved into South Philadelphia High and Childs Elementary in Point Breeze while remediation work happened at their building.
“These sorts of school facilities problems will continue to get more and more expensive and more and more dangerous if we don’t fund the improvements that we need,” Fiedler said.
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