PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence education leaders on Wednesday criticized service company Aramark regarding the cleanliness of Providence schools, at a time when the physical condition of the buildings is being closely scrutinized.
A photo of a chewed-through disposable cereal bowl got the attention this week of Providence Teachers Union president Maribeth Calabro, who said she wanted to go inside Anthony Carnevale Elementary School to see the situation for herself. School Board President Nick Hemond arranged for her to get into the school on Wednesday, along with Del Sesto Middle School, to survey the situation.
Hemond said a reporter could not come into either school, since children were inside for summer learning programs. Both Hemond and Calabro said they observed mouse droppings inside.
“I was quite upset with what I perceived to be a lack of attention to detail from Aramark in that school,” Hemond said in an interview. “I just don’t think that’s an environment that’s right for kids.”
A representative from Aramark who was on the tour said he was not authorized to comment on behalf of the company, and said someone else would provide a comment to Target 12. No one had responded as of Wednesday night.
The Providence City Council approved a four-year extension with Aramark last year, extending the contract for facilities and custodial services through the year 2023. The original contract cost more than $16 million for the first year, with an annual adjustment based on the consumer price index.
“I just saw dirt, general filth,” Calabro told Target 12. “I did see mouse droppings in the classrooms. … If they’re not doing their custodial duties on a regular basis, food is left around.”
The Carnevale elementary school has had children utilizing it for a summer program, which Hemond said ends on Thursday.
“You can’t go back in time,” Hemond said. “They need to be more diligent about cleaning.”
Asked about the issues in the Carnevale school, Mayor Jorge Elorza’s press secretary, Victor Morente, called the situation “unacceptable,” and said it is “currently being addressed with the vendor.”
“The city has communicated with Aramark and has made it clear that they will be held accountable for ensuring classrooms are ready for our students in September,” Morente said.
Hemond did take a reporter inside Vartan Gregorian Elementary School and Lillian Feinstein Elementary School at Sackett Street, where repairs and cleanup were underway for the start of the school year.
The Feinstein school had newly waxed floors and a fresh coat of paint. Hemond said it was near the end of the process to get ready for the school year.
The school recently renovated the gymnasium, including its roof, but the rest of the school is still awaiting a roof repair. A tarp could be seen on the ceiling in one hallway, and it was connected to a hose that diverts leaks during rainy weather.
Inside the Gregorian school, a classroom that was damaged by a fire last August was being fully renovated.
A total of $20 million in school repairs have been taking place over the summer, according to Elorza’s office, including multiple roof replacements, heating upgrades and electrical improvements.
Voters in Providence also approved a $250 million bond last year for school buildings. But Hemond said the money only “scratches the surface” when there are so many aging buildings that have been deteriorating for decades.
“The building I just walked you through is 90-plus years old,” Hemond said outside the Lillian Feinstein school. “It takes a lot to maintain these buildings, and as a community we’ve not done that.”
The Providence School Department plans to take reporters on a tour of schools with newly appointed interim superintendent Frances Gallo on Thursday. The tour includes visiting summer programs at Young Woods Elementary School, Del Sesto Middle School and Central High School.