April 14, 2023
In response to the ongoing school facilities crisis and recent asbestos-related closures, PFT President Jerry Jordan issued the following statement:
PHILADELPHIA--"The seriousness of the ongoing facilities crisis and its impact on our students and staff cannot be overstated. This year, in the span of just a few weeks, three schools have been shuttered due to damaged asbestos. These discoveries are particularly glaring because they come in the wake of incorrect assessments from over two decades ago.
"Immediately before the pandemic, more than ten schools were closed in a single school year due to damaged asbestos. In fact, during that time, the District's previous leadership was so recalcitrant that it was only due to our collective advocacy that we were even able to ensure that students and staff were relocated in the events of these emergent situations.
"In the case of Building 21, Mitchell, and Frankford, we recognize that the District's response was markedly different than it has been in the past. Their move to relocate students and staff quickly is important.
"The fact that the Frankford High School and Mitchell Elementary School buildings will be shuttered for the remainder of the school year is upsetting. But it is the right decision to safeguard students and staff. However, I am deeply disturbed that students and staff at impacted schools have potentially been exposed to damaged asbestos for an unknown period of time.
"Moving forward, we can and must act with the urgency that this crisis demands. Our children and their educators must have safe and healthy school buildings in which to work and learn. We know that for years, the state has shirked their obligation to meet the constitutionally mandated system of thorough and efficient public education. And we know that, having been once and for all ordered by the court to address this negligence, the path forward is clear, and in fact, ensuring the needed funds is court-mandated. We urge the legislature to move forward with the First Step Plan outlined by Senator Hughes in March.
"I look forward to the day when we no longer have to fight for the most basic of needs for our young people--a majority of whom are Black and brown. Because let's be very clear: toxic schools would never, ever be tolerated in a wealthier, whiter school district. Our fight continues."