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Newly Formed Coalition Aims To Fix Aging Philadelphia School Buildings

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A coalition of parent groups and labor unions is forming to tackle the health risks in Philadelphia's aging public school buildings.

The coalition called the Philly Healthy Schools Initiative is calling on the School District of Philadelphia to step-up maintenance of its buildings, which are an average of more than 65 years old. At a City Hall news conference, parent Kendra Brooks said the group is concerned about the health risks facing staff and students.

"When I enter a school with my kindergarten, and the bathrooms outside the gym have signs that say, 'Do not drink the water," I'm alarmed," she said.

David Masur, executive director of the group PennEnvironment, says the coalition is also calling on the district to inform the public of building problems.

"Maybe crumbling asbestos, lead dust that needs remediation," Masur said. "As a parent I don't have access to that information."

In a statement, District COO Fran Burns says the district has made safe schools a priority.

"The School District of Philadelphia has made safe, clean and environmentally sustainable schools a top priority. We are continuing to work to provide our students with equitable access to green, sustainable resources. We have a detailed Facility Condition Assessment report which is guiding our $1.1 billion capital improvement plan and we will continue to work and engage with outside partners as we work to create great schools close to where children live."

The district released a Facility Condition Assessment in February, which outlined 12,000 building repairs needed, at a cost of $4.5 billion.

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