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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s no secret some Philadelphia schools are in deplorable conditions. It would take $4.5 billion to get every Philadelphia school and athletic field up to code, according to the city’s school district, but that’s money the district doesn’t have.
Still, the district is doing what it can by upgrading several schools a year.
Motivation High School, in Southwest Philadelphia, sits in the old John P. Turner Middle School, which was built 50 years ago. For the first time since then, it is undergoing major renovations.
Rene Ohntrup’s construction company, Smith Construction, won a multi-million dollar bid for the project.
“It’s an old building,” she said of Motivation High School. “It hasn’t had any renovations since it was built in 1969, so we’re the first contractors in here.”
Students are eager to see the upgrades.
“We would get ridiculed from other schools like, ‘Oh, you’re in a middle school building,’” said 12th-grade student Ciara Bacon. “But now we’re getting something new that we get to show everybody.”
“A change in scenery is going to really help us academically,” added India Nelson.
Some rooms have long outdated technology, stained desks and peeling paint on the walls.
“Our children deserve to be in facilities that are not in disrepair,” said Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. William Hite.
But Hite also pointed out the district operates 224 schools and the average Philadelphia school building is 70 years old. On top of that, the district also has a combined 15,000 outstanding work orders.
“You don’t solve a $4.5 billion problem overnight,” said Hite. “If we want to improve those environments it’s gonna take – it’s gonna require more, more in terms of spent capital, more in terms of resources for us to do more of these projects.”
Part of the problem, according to district officials, is funding for school construction projects used to come from the state through a program called PlanCon. That funding was suddenly cut several years ago, but it’s something the district and the teachers union both agree needs to change.
Until then, the district is budgeting enough funding to renovate several schools a year. Besides Motivation High School, other schools getting upgrades this year include: Dobbins High School, Ben Franklin High School, Greenfield Elementary School, Hampton Moore, Roosevelt Middle School, and Wilson Middle School. And two new constructions include Solis Cohen Elementary School and New School on Ryan Avenue.