District of Columbia: D.C. Public Schools' Modernization Program Faces Major Challenges

GAO-02-628T Published: Apr 25, 2002. Publicly Released: Apr 25, 2002.
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The District of Columbia school system, with help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), has made considerable progress in fixing roofs, replacing windows, repairing bathrooms, and completing other maintenance work that has been neglected for years. The D.C. school system is now addressing the more complex task of modernizing--either through renovation or through new construction--virtually every public school in the city. In April 1998, the school system entered into an agreement with the Corps for engineering, procurement, and technical assistance. In December 2000, the D.C. Board of Education approved a facility master plan that would modernize 10 schools annually over 10 to 15 years at a cost of $1.3 billion. Historically significant buildings cannot be razed, however, and are costly to redesign. So far, construction costs are running significantly higher than estimated by the facility master plan. The scope of the work has been expanded to recognize community needs for some special facilities. In examining the Washington Gas Light Company's records of quality inspections for the work it managed for the school system, GAO found that 77 percent of all projects lacked evidence of quality inspections. The school system sought help from the Corps in fiscal year 1999 to comply with EPA requirements and spent $60.5 million on asbestos management and abatement activities.

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