PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. William Hite says COVID-19 may be preventing in-person learning, but it's not stopping the district from tackling much-needed building improvements head-on.
"One of the things that is not a secret is the amount of capital improvements that actually need to be done in the school district," said Hite. "Some 250,000 feet of asbestos-containing material were removed from buildings. That was work that was already planned. We have been able to do a lot more because the schools have been closed."
Since March of this year, the district says it has invested $264 million in building improvements. That money has been used on a number of projects, like making sure schools are certified lead safe, repairing roofs, renovating bathrooms and making crucial HVAC and electrical upgrades.
"We are faced with, as you know and have heard already, an antiquated infrastructure here, so the challenge is trying to modernize those facilities. New construction is a little bit easier, simpler to than the modernization that we need to do inside some of our older facilities," said Reggie McNeil, chief operating officer for the school district.
On top of the repairs already being made, the district is also making sure buildings are safely ready to reopen and meet all requirements and health guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Hite admits more work needs to be done.
There are hundreds of projects, carrying a price tag in the billions of dollars, but the district says progress is being made.
"I am proud of the fact that we now have 110 schools that are certified "lead safe" because several years ago it was lead. I am proud of the fact that we have moved some 250,000 feet of asbestos-containing material. That brings down the asbestos hazards in many of the schools," said Dr. Hite.
You can find more about the improvement projects on the district's website.