The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Back to School Special—Rats and No A/C!

Aug 30, 2021

For months, the Montebello School District in Los Angeles County boasted about how they were thoroughly preparing for the safe return of students to class. But as teachers in Montebello High School arrived a week before classes and started to prepare for the new year, they found rooms full of dead rats, with rats’ nests in cabinets, and droppings everywhere. Teachers could not enter some rooms because rats overran the rooms.

On top of the infestation, the district didn’t take the necessary steps to improve air ventilation, an essential step in preventing the spread of COVID-19. In fact, teachers complained the entire A/C system was not working in a building where many classrooms have no windows!

“Wonderful work being done preparing for a safe return!” posted one angry parent on the district’s social media page.

After 18 months, the district told the 2,600 students and their families that the school had to close for several more weeks.

The school district consists overwhelmingly of working class families; 80% of households are low-income. Parents now have to make the hard choice of choosing either to go to work or stay at home to take care of their kids.

Neither the rats nor the A/C systems were new. Teachers had been complaining to the school board for years. During summer school, teachers brought their own vacuums to clean the droppings.

Money was not even an issue. The district received over 8.5 million dollars, that is, 348 dollars per student, in last year’s stimulus bill to help maintain school facilities. This is in addition to a 300-million-dollar bond passed by taxpayers in 2016 earmarked for maintaining the school.

The officials continuously have shown that the last thing on their minds is putting the money to use in a way that benefits the students.