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"New" DPS: 90% of buildings up to code to start school year

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools has made “enormous progress” on fixing crumbling school buildings, but there’s still more work to do.

More than 90% of the district’s 94 school buildings are now officially “up to code,” according to city and school district officials.

Detroit’s building department got involved in the situation early this year, after teacher protests that highlighted some decrepit building conditions, among other things, hit the news.

Detroit Federation of Teachers Executive Vice President Terrence Martin says they deserve credit for that.

“If it were not for teachers standing up, and really being outspoken about caring for children, caring about education, this ball would have not gotten rolling,” said Martin.

This school year, the Detroit Public Schools technically starts over as a “new” district.

That distinction is mostly technical. The state concocted a bankruptcy-style restructuring so the “old” district wouldn’t go broke.

Steven Rhodes is the district’s “transition manager” during that time. He says state lawmakers approved $150 million in transition funding for the new district, but that wasn’t enough to cover all the improvements the district’s schools could use.

“It’s $50 million short,” Rhodes said of that funding.

Rhodes says the new Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) has already burned through that $150 million, most of which went to cover past obligations.

DPSCD has spent $2.5 million making fixes so far. Another eight schools still need some major repairs, which officials pledged to have completed sometime this fall.

The district has budgeted $10 million for “facilities maintenance and improvements” this school year.

Rhodes says he’s “still seeking additional funds” for repairs.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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