Daly City school closes after sewage backs into restroom

- As California schools age, maintenance and repairs become more important to their mission of delivering an education. 

An increasing amount of schools are forced to put off maintenance and repairs as little problems turn into bigger ones. Bigger is always more expensive.

School District officials canceled all classes at Daly City's Westlake Elementary School. But the reason why could have been easily prevented.

It turns out; the sewage system became overloaded with commonly flushed materials.

"What we had was a situation of excessive paper towels being flushed down the toilet, feminine hygiene products and flushable toilet wipes which we are learning are not really flushable. Do we need to replace our sewage pipes to accommodate some of the things that commonly flushed down the toilet today?" asks Superintendent Bernie Vidales of the Jefferson Elementary School District.

Though the school's aging sewer system backed up into the restrooms, no classrooms, halls or the cafeteria were affected. With repairs done, the school will be open on Wednesday. 

But aging schools can present problems at any time.

"We've had situations at school sites where roots have gone into our sewage pipes and we've had to replace whole sections," says Superintendent Vidales.

That’s a big part of the problem— catching problems before they become debilitating.

"We certainly do not have enough money to be able to fund an adequate education for our students, not to mention being able to take care of our infrastructure. and building needs," says Mr. Vidales.

UC Berkeley's Center For Schools and Cities says 80 percent of California's 6 million public school students go to schools that don't meet minimum spending standards for maintenance, operations or replacement.

The state bonds that provided about $35 billion in grants to local districts for new construction and building modernizations, is completely out of money as is the Deferred Maintenance Program that provided annual funds to districts. Nonetheless, even though 1 in 10 California schools in the state are more than 75 years old, "We do not get a dedicated source of funds for maintenance.  It's all part of everything we get for education," says the Superintendent.

There will be a $9 billion school bond on November's ballot to try to deal with this, if voters agree.

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