Marshall High — built in 1930 — has 136 service requests pending at the moment, including one for the crumbling Gothic tower that rises above the main entrance.
"The mortar between the bricks was not repaired at the time of the 1972 earthquake, so water has leaked in and rusted the rebar," said Principal Daniel Harrison. "As the rusted rebar expands, you have bricks and you have chunks coming off the tower."
When a chunk crashed onto the roof last year, Harrison demanded that something be done to ensure student safety. Scaffolding was erected, with a wooden platform to catch any falling bricks or concrete, and the main entrance to the school was shut down. It remains that way today.
L.A. Unified is not alone in struggling with falling-apart schools. A report Tuesday from the Center for Green Schools, with a forward from former President Clinton, said it would take half a trillion dollars to repair and modernize the nation's schools so they meet health and safety standards.
In retrospect, with recent bond measures in Los Angeles, there may have been too much focus on building new schools, and too little on fixing existing ones. Hovatter told me he's hoping there's enough wiggle room on existing bond money to make a bigger dent in the repair backlog this year and next. But he said it would take billions of dollars and many years to replace the district's failing roofs, sewage lines and heating and air conditioning systems.
As for the purchase of tablets, Deasy told me that new technology was specifically covered under the latest bond measure. Though many of his budget decisions have been difficult, he said his first priority has been clear all along.
"When we went through huge, catastrophic reductions in California, we held on to the most critical thing, which was teachers," he said.
Schools aren't alone, he added, in dealing with declining infrastructure.
"Take a look at roads. Take a look at bridges. Take a look at national parks."
I'm looking, and from where I sit in the bleachers, I see us sabotaging our own best interests, underinvesting in our children's futures, and paying a price that is becoming ever more evident, everywhere you look.