Good Evening and thank you for allowing me to testify today. My name is Joshua Wiley, and I am an Assistant Principal at Whittier Elementary School.
Many school leaders will not testify about their school building due to fear of retaliation but my fear of students in an unsafe learning environment supersedes that.
I am testifying today about the modernization of Whittier Elementary.
Whittier has a phrase we say to all students, “if trouble finds you [student], find the nearest adult” for a solution to their problem. In the last few years, I don’t feel like I’ve been able to embody that phrase and meet the needs of my students. I feel helpless when students come to me about the difficulties they experience in an inadequate school building. I cannot help them or find a solution for a leaky roof or an outdated/flawed HVAC system. So I’m going to the next nearest adult, you, DCPS Senior Leadership. Modernization at Whittier has been Over Looked and Over Due for far too long.
Patchwork repairs have plagued Whittier for years. Whittier received a new roof in 2020 and it hasn’t stopped leaking since. Check the work orders. The elevator project is only on one side of the building, leaving 50% of the building out of ADA compliance once the elevator is completed. Several students can not attend Whittier Elementary School due to the lack of ADA-accessible classrooms. Why are we denying students their educational rights?
Imagine dropping your student off at school and dodging falling bricks, breathing in asbestos in the basement, or the lack of working water fountains for students to use. Over the last two years, I’ve personally been present, where we’ve had hot steam spewing from the busted pipes. When companies come for repairs, we’ve been told, it’s only a matter of time before it happens again. Steaming hot water, asbestos, leaks, and mold pose a severe safety risk for students, staff, and families.
Before my request is disregarded again by DCPS Leadership due to not being able to modify the Modernization list, I want to identify the error in how schools are prioritized for modernization. This error has unfortunately bumped Whittier Elementary further down the list.
Whittier Elementary has six self-contained classrooms (more than any other DCPS Elementary School), which combined currently hold approximately 25 students total. Whittier’s building capacity is 520, which is not readjusted for the self-contained classes. According to the master facility listing, Whittier is only 70% full. However, all six self-contained classrooms are full or nearly full, bringing Whittier’s current capacity to 90%.
With this high number of self-contained special education classrooms and the constant safety issues present throughout the building, there should be more urgency for this request.
When you look at the demographics of the schools that have moved up the modernization list, received building add-ons, or unique swing spaces, it is clear what you must look like or what your zip code must be to have special consideration.
I ask that Whittier Elementary be moved up the modernization list to begin planning during the fiscal year 2024. If this request is not considered, it further shows the lack of respect for students and staff members at Whittier Elementary School.
I, too, am tired of being overlooked.