The Department of Education inspected almost 800 public elementary schools and found lead-paint in 938 classrooms, it revealed July 31.
At the end of the most-recent school year, the agency visually assessed 5,408 rooms in all 797 school buildings built before 1985 that serve children under 6. Although the Federal Government banned the use of lead paint in 1978, out of caution, the DOE tests buildings that were constructed a few years after that date.
Hazardous to Young Kids
Long-term lead-paint exposure is especially dangerous to young children, who can develop serious health problems, including developmental delays. The DOE plans to remediate these classrooms prior to the beginning of the school year.
It also reported that 1,307 classrooms were found to have deteriorated paint conditions but did not contain lead paint. The agency has scheduled these rooms to be repainted.
At P.S. 108 in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, and at P.S. 49 in the South Bronx, a dozen classrooms in each building tested positive for lead paint, more than any other schools.
This is the first time the DOE has publicly released data related to lead paint in classrooms. Earlier this summer, the agency announced plans to create a database tracking lead paint. Classrooms will be inspected three times a year: before the first day of school, over winter break, and at the end of the school year. This round of inspections marked the first time that first-grade classrooms were checked: previously, only classrooms used for 3-K, pre-K and kindergarten students were assessed.
‘Done by September’
DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot stated that “all work will be complete by the first day of school, and we’re going to remain vigilant throughout the year and regularly inspect, test, and immediately address any concern in our buildings.”
The agency has also created a tool that will allow school staff or family members to report deteriorating paint, which will dispatch inspectors.
A United Federation of Teachers spokesperson called the increased transparency “a good change, and we will be monitoring the results going forward.”
Last October, the de Blasio administration announced that Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia would head the city’s efforts to reduce childhood lead exposure as Senior Advisor for Citywide Lead Prevention. Mayor de Blasio has been deluged with criticism since it was revealed that the Housing Authority did not perform thousands of required lead-paint inspections, and that 1,160 children living in public housing had tested positive for elevated blood-lead levels.
The DOE came under scrutiny after it was reported that the agency used flawed methods to test water fixtures for lead. It announced that in its most-recent test of 49,959 water fountains, bathroom sinks and other fixtures, 95 percent met state standards.
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