Outside City Hall Thursday, mayoral candidate William Thompson pledged to remove hundreds of trailers that have been serving as classrooms for years, but the Department of Education said he's responsible for installing them in the first place. NY1's Lindsey Christ has been reporting on the use of trailers in city schools all week, and she filed the following report.
They've been sitting in schoolyards since the '90s: trailers with classrooms, supposed to be a temporary fix for overcrowded schools. Now, many have begun to fall apart, with broken bathrooms, mold, rotted ramps and leaking roofs. Yet thousands of students still study in them.
For years, the teachers' and principals' unions have raised concerns, and on Thursday, William Thompson, the candidate they endorsed for mayor, pledged to remove all the trailers immediately if elected.
"You need a mayor with leadership who is going to say, 'I will decommission these trailers and I will make sure that kids are not getting sick from school,'" said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
"When Bill Thompson was running for mayor, we said, 'This is important to us,'" said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. "He says, 'We will decommission these trailers day 1.'"
That's exactly what he said, again and again, on the steps of City Hall Thursday.
"Day 1, we need to decommission these trailers," Thompson said. "We need to get our children out of these 350 trailers, so many of which are unhealthy for them."
Q: When you say decommission on day 1, though, you don't mean on January 1, you're going to be able to move 12,000 kids out of these things?
Thompson: No, you're not going to have every child out on day 1, but what we need to do is start to move children out as quickly as possible.
When asked about cost, Thompson said he couldn't estimate even a ballpark figure, but he said he'd find the funds to replace the trailers.
"They're just something that's left over from years ago," Thompson said.
Left over from when he was a member, and then president, of the city's school board.
In a statement, the Department of Education said, in part, "During Bill Thompson's tenure at the Board of Education, the number of students served in trailers skyrocketed. He put an additional 25,000 students in trailers. We have been working to reduce that number ever since."
But Thompson, and the unions, said that by leaving thousands of students in trailers long after their intended expiration dates, the city has jeopardized their health.
When asked if he'd consider replacing old trailers with new ones, Thompson said that this time around, trailers would not be part of the solution.