GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — The superintendent of Guilford County Schools took on Congress on Tuesday.
For several hours, Dr. Sharon Contreras, and other education advocates, testified in Washington about the state of schools across the nation.
It was also a plea for financial help at the federal level.
FOX8 went inside one of the schools referred to by Contreras in her testimony, Northeast Middle School.
Water dripped from the ceiling at the middle school on Tuesday.
“We have to get a trash can or put like a bucket underneath it,” said Isabella, a seventh-grader.
Sewage in the pipes earlier in the year forced one boy’s bathroom to close and the surrounding classrooms to relocate.
“There was just sewage sitting in the pipes and the smell, you could smell it down the hall,” said Joshua, a seventh-grader. “It was really, really annoying so we had to migrate upstairs.”
School leaders tell FOX8 that the bathroom has been out of service for three months.
Students and staff are frustrated with the situation.
“We want those issues to be addressed, because we want the learning environment to be the best it can be for our students,” teacher Regina Galloway said.
Galloway had her social studies class watch Contreras testify before Congress during her time with them.
“Students come to our doorsteps eager to learn. Unfortunately, our doors don’t always open to facilities designed to meet the needs of students in this post-industrial era,” Contreras said in her testimony.
Contreras detailed the problems Guilford County schools are facing because they are old and run down.
“Our maintenance staff responds to more than 30,000 work orders annually. Many for failing HVAC units, plumbing systems and leaky roofs,” she said.
Northeast Middle School was built in 1967.
“It needs help,” Galloway said. “It needs a face lift.
She wants it to be a safe place for children to learn.
“Taxpayers pay all this money. I think a school environment and a school building should be up to standard for students to come in,” she said. “They’re here the majority of the day. They’re here more than they are at home. We want the school to be safe and clean.”
They all hope the superintendent’s words painted a troubling enough picture to get something done.
“Northeast has issues. And if Northeast cannot get a new building, then fixing those issues would make Northeast better,” Galloway said.
The seventh-grade class was so touched by Contreras’ testimony, they wrote thank you letters to send her way.
“‘Dear Dr. Contreras, thank you for supporting Guilford County Schools,'” Isabella read.
In the testimony, Contreras also said one of the biggest issues they’re facing is not enough funds for maintenance to take care of problems.
The district only gets about $6 million a year for repairs. Contreras said right now, they need $800 million.