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A Hummel Report Investigation

Warm, Safe, and Dry?

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A teacher in one Providence elementary school has been out sick for 16 days this year  - battling repeated bronchitis, after a roof leak in her classroom last August. Her school is one of many in Providence  in desperate need of repairs. This week Jim Hummel examines the General Assembly’s 2011 statewide moratorium on school construction reimbursement and how it has dramatically affected the conditions of schools in Providence.

SCRIPT

Like many schools of its era - Harry Kirzirian Elementary off Chalkstone Avenue needs a lot more than a facelift. From the outside the school looks like it was built in 1959. But it isn’t until a visit inside that you truly appreciate the challenging conditions that teachers, staff and 600 children face every day.
Last August, just as school was beginning, heavy rains caused part of the building’s flat roof to cave in; water cascaded into Room 204. Despite efforts to replace tiles and carpeting there has been a persistent mold problem. You can see it in other parts of the building as well.
It’s been so bad that the veteran teacher in Room 204, who has been at Kizirian for a dozen years, has had to take 16 sick days this year alone to fight multiple bouts of bronchitis. Every times she’s come back respiratory problems, and exhaustion, have returned as well.
Smith: ``It has a tremendous effect on the morale and the climate and culture of a building.’’
Steve Smith is the outgoing president of the Providence Teachers Union and a former state representative. The union has filed a grievance over the conditions at Kizirian - and is fighting to have the teacher’s sick time reinstated for the days missed. Her allergist has called the teacher’s classroom a `toxic environment.’
Smith: ``There’s certainly water issues and it all starts with the roof. And when you have a problem with water it eventually finds its level then you have mold and air quality problems.’’
But it’s not just the roof in 204. This brace surrounded by scaffolding greets everyone who uses the cafeteria, which doubles as a gym. It was installed three years ago to prop up the ceiling. At first the kids thought it was meant for climbing, so officials put in padding and orange cones as a warning.

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