District Schools Long Overdue for Makeover

High school coaches say that with $200 million in this year’s budget for D.C. schools they still doubt if any repairs would be done.

Every year, Washington produces some of the best high school football teams in the region–like the squads at Dunbar and Ballou–despite having some of the area’s worst facilities, school officials said.

Upgrades desperately are needed across the board, school board officials, coaches and players say.

Players at schools like Cardoza High School and Coolidge High School must train on horrific fields, in rundown locker rooms using substandard equipment, they said.

"Our football field is over used," said Marvin Drummond, head football coach for Cardoza. "We have soccer games one week and middle school games the next as well as our football games. We have a balding spot in the middle of the field."

The problem is lack of money and personnel, said Paul Taylor, deputy director of Facility Management for the District’s public schools.

"Two reasons why these high schools are dealing with these conditions," he said. "One is the money required to fix these facilities was never given, and two because many of the staff were terminated due to the reduction in force."

Currently, school officials are mapping out a plan to modernize the athletics’ departments as well as other school facilities, Taylor said.

"We have held meetings with principals, students, and teachers telling us what they would like to see and the board will make the final decision," he said.

The Washington City Council has doubled the school system’s budget to $200 million this year so school officials can begin repairs to various facilities, Taylor said. It will take 10 to 15 years to upgrade all the schools in the area at the rate of about six schools per year, Taylor said. But Drummond has his doubts.

"I don’t know if I’ll ever see the plan come to light," he said. "Problems have existed for so long. Our locker rooms are ancient. The kids deserve better."

One area that needs attention are the bleachers, said Drummond and Jason Lane, the head football coach at Coolidge High School.

At Coolidge High School, the steps on the bleachers are so chipped that they could cause someone to fall, Lane said.

According to Lane, the lockers at Coolidge are also in bad shape. The players can’t put locks on the lockers because the locker doors are falling off, he said.

"We need a sports budget," Lane said. "We are unable to compete to the best of our abilities with these facilities."

The football players at Cardozo have to deal with water coming into the locker room from leaks in the ceiling, Drummond said.

Fires set two years ago by arsonists have ruined the Cardozo football equipmrnt storage room, he said.

The school does not have enough money to supply all the athletes with new uniforms, Drummond said. Consequently, he had to get a donation for new jerseys, he said.

Drummond said he has also taken out money from his pockets in order to provide the players with emblems for their helmets.

"It’s a struggle, but we do it for the kids," he said.

Under the current budget, the Cardozo football team can afford only three footballs and 50 mouthpieces, Drummond said.

Lane said the disparity affects his players.

"It affects our players when we go on the road and they see the other team put forth a lot of effort because they have a lot more to work with," he said.

The coaches are in search of support in order to improve the conditions of their schools, they said.

"I think we can do better with full support from people who are supposed to support us," Drummond said.