Friday, February 9, 2007

When It Rains, These Classrooms Pour

By Lauren Gard
Fri, Feb 9, 2007 at 3:27 PM

Students at KIPP Bridge College Prep in West Oakland learned an important lesson about physics this week: An aging roof cannot hold water indefinitely. A number of rooms in the school have flooded since the heavy rain kicked up yesterday, including the computer lab, the library, the auditorium, and the art room used by ArtEsteem, an Oakland-based program that dispatches art instructors to the school three days a week. "It's unacceptable," says ArtEsteem director Amana Harris, who notes that the roof has been a problem for years.

"It's really that bad," she adds. "It's not like school administrators and teachers haven't been complaining. It's not like parents haven't been complaining. But no one has responded from the district. This is just not okay."

Harris says she went by the school today to remove artwork and noticed that the art room was locked. That's when she learned about the flooding. "Kids were in the art class yesterday and water started pouring down," she says. In a photo taken earlier by Harris' colleague, Heath Winer, you can clearly see where a chunk of ceiling has crashed to the classroom floor.

KIPP Bridge principal David Ling says that the school district did, in fact, send workers to the school today to help "get it cleaned up and fixed." Yet when asked when he expects the flooded rooms to be habitable again, he says he has no idea. "It's been a really big challenge," he notes before asking this reporter to go through official OUSD channels, per protocol.

"It's a constant challenge to maintain, repair and prevent this kind of stuff," offered district spokesman Alex Katz, who hadn't heard about the flooding when reached mid-afternoon on Friday. "Every winter there's flooding at some schools � that's to be expected. There are always problems with flooding, with heating, with air-conditioning. But all of those things are a very high priority for the district."

The flooding comes at a sensitive time, since the five-year-old middle school recently petitioned to leave the district in order to operate independently as a charter school. If cut loose, KIPP leaders have said they'll have more money to spend on students. And a new roof? One can only hope.


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