Crumbling Classrooms: A Look Inside MPS Schools & the Millions It Will Take to Repair

Two hundred million dollars in deferred maintenance… That’s just the estimate for Montgomery Public Schools, but one board member said that number could actually be higher. Unusable classrooms, faulty heat and A.C. units… and numerous schools that need new roofs.

Now, we’re taking you inside the schools to see these issues up close.

It is no secret that Montgomery Public Schools is facing major infrastructure issues…and it’s not something school leaders try to hide.

But when you actually go inside the schools, you may be shocked to see just how bad things are. Sidney Lanier High School’s façade will stop you in your tracks…there’s a reason its called ‘The Castle.’ But some things inside the building may stop you in your tracks too… and for all the wrong reasons.

“We could very easily spend 200 million or more, to get us where we need to be,” Chad Anderson, Executive Director of Operations for MPS said.

And that’s across the entire school system.  Anderson is responsible for school maintenance and figuring out how to pay for a long list of needs: “If we get more money or we don’t, we’re going to tackle it as quickly as we can. It’s just with more money, we can take bigger bites out of things.”

Anderson said around 30 of the 52 school roofs need to be replaced…and Sidney Lanier is at the top of that list. There are classrooms that are completely unusable because the roof has been leaking for years: “The biggies, like Lanier, Jeff Davis, those big schools that are in that upwards of 1.5 million to 2.5 million dollars, those are things that we just don’t have the funding for in the district right now.”

And that’s just the beginning…Anderson told us smaller roofing projects will cost at least $200,000… and every year it’s not addressed, the price only goes up: “If a roof costs $600,000 this year, next year you can add another 3-4% to that, and so on and so forth, just for an estimated average.”

And when you step into Lanier’s auditorium…”It’s really hot up there, I break into a sweat rather quickly on the third floor.” The heat hits you quick…
Most days you’ll find all windows in the school open because of ongoing A.C. issues…and on a 100 degree day in August or September…there’s not much relief.

“We just want a better place for our kids. We want our kids to come into a nice, clean, freshly painted area, that looks decent and appropriate for education.”

But even in these conditions, School Board President Clare Weil said she is most impressed with the work happening at the school: “Here at Lanier, I know they are doing some wonderful things, even in bad conditions. We want these conditions to be fixed so that they have a school as bright as the student body is.”

She pointed to things like murals painted by students in the cafeteria, renovated areas like a new bathroom and classroom achievement as things to be proud of and rally behind. But she wants the community to realize that these problems won’t just fix themselves: “I just think it’s going to show, I hope show, the public that there is a real need for an increase in funds to get these simple things done.”

…And ensures me that they know exactly what the problems are, but are unable to solve them with funding as it is now: “I think that if the community sees that we care, hopefully they will care too,” Weil explained. “This is everybody’s business and we’re going to need the public’s help to the funds to fix these things.”

This story really just scratches the surface as we only showed you one school, but it can give you some idea of the conditions inside many MPS schools right now.

Remember half of the schools are in need of some type of roof repairs.

There is a committee of community members in place to work with Chad Anderson to prioritize maintenance needs across the district, but Claire Weil told us these problems cannot be solved without an eventual increase in funding.

The committee presented its findings to the school board earlier this week.

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