Add this to the list of D.C.’s school woes: out-of-order toilets, cafeteria flooding, and no breakfast being served at Anacostia High School today.
That’s what students and staff said they encountered this morning at the school, which received an award-winning $63 million renovation less than five years ago. They marched out of the school in protest, demanding action from the D.C. Public Schools chancellor and central office.
At one point, staff lined up in front of the building’s front doors and chanted in support of better working conditions. Students expressed their pent-up frustration over the situation on social media.
“They are disrespecting teachers. They are disrespecting students. We have no running water. We have no toilets. We are upset,” one individual shouted to onlookers. In his remarks, the speaker also referenced the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. on the anniversary of his assassination. He said the group would stay outside until interim DCPS chancellor Amanda Alexander showed up.
Alexander arrived and reported that the school’s water issues had been “resolved.” DCPS representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment. According to Ward 8 State Board of Education member Markus Batchelor, who met with Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White and Washington Teachers’ Union members, students went back inside the school around 10:30 a.m.
“Seems to be a long record of neglect—to the building and those inside—from central office and [D.C.’s Department of General Services],” Batchelor tweeted. “The frustration is palpable. Students & educators deserve better.” In a text message, he wrote that some renovations don’t fully address the needs of schools.
There were conflicting reports about how many bathrooms at the school were not usable on Wednesday. At-Large D.C. Councilmember David Grosso tweeted that DCPS told him half “of restroom facilities were operating before school started.” But an Anacostia High teacher said only two of more than a dozen restrooms at the school “were working at about 8:30 a.m.,” after many students and all staff had already arrived.
In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, DCPS said bathrooms had started reopening by 8 a.m. and “all repairs were completed” by 10:15 a.m. “The Department of General Services is assessing all DCPS facilities system-wide to proactively address any similar issues,” DCPS said.
On Facebook, another teacher at the school posted a screenshot of an email from Principal Eric Fraser sent around 7 a.m., which said that as of Tuesday evening, “water stopped flowing to the building’s toilets and they all stopped flushing.”
Fraser wrote that the school’s administration had reached out to DCPS and DGS “immediately and they have been working on the situation throughout the night.” A pair of “water pumps” needed to be fixed, he added, and the administration had contacted nearby Kramer Middle School for potential “alternative arrangements.”
The District heralded Anacostia High’s “modernization” with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2012. The school had been in a serious state of disrepair, with an outdated HVAC system, a dilapidated façade, pervasive water damage, and poor plumbing. “We finally have the kind of facility that our students deserve here in Anacostia,” former DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson said at the ceremony.
Anacostia High was one of three DCPS schools the D.C. Auditor included in a 2015 audit of the District’s school modernization program. The auditor concluded that the District did not properly account for expenditures while projects went over budget and behind schedule. Lawmakers responded with anger and calls for more accountability. The Anacostia project cost about $300 per square foot.