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Conference examines health problems in schools

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

At a conference in Flint Thursday, officials and national experts are discussing how to reduce health hazards found in schools.

The conference comes the day before a U.S. Conference of Mayors summit in Flint on water issues.

Claire Barnett is the executive director of the Healthy Schools Network, a New York-based group that promotes healthy environments in schools.

Barnett says problems ranging from lead in school drinking fountains to crumbling buildings, are getting worse nationally. She says problems are worse in economically disadvantaged school districts that don't have the financial resources needed to address the problem.  

“What’s important is not every solution is expensive,” says Barnett.  

She suggests school administrators need to do a better job of tracking work orders, to stay on top of problems.

Flint schools continue to deal with the effects of the city’s lead tainted water crisis.  

While tests show water in Flint schools meet acceptable standards, district officials say they want the water quality to be above the standard.

“Our buildings must be worthy of the children who enter them. And often times, that is not the case,” says Flint Public Schools Community District Superintendent Derrick Lopez. He says the district has about $15 million in deferred maintenance. 

The district is getting help with its water infrastructure.  

Billionaire Elon Musk recently donated nearly a half million dollars to pay for new water fountains with filtration systems at all Flint schools.

The new water fountains should be in place by the end of January. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.