Dayana Bergman wasn't thinking about natural disasters when she posted photos of her local high school, but that's what everyone assumed they were looking at.
The military mom of three is currently living in Lansdowne, Maryland. After working with local youth as a sports coach and translator, Bergman began receiving photos of Lansdowne High School. The kids she'd helped wanted her to know how rundown their school was.
Shocked, Bergman joined those advocating for renovations to Lansdowne High. But while Lansdowne is on a list of local schools that are supposed to get help, it has yet to receive a funding proposal sufficient to fix all of the decay and disrepair.
Frustrated, Bergman posted a series of photos from the school on her Facebook page. The damaged building — including holes in the walls, brown water in the fountains, peeling paint, mildew, and more — drew attention.
But to Bergman's surprise, people assumed they were looking at the result of a natural disaster.
Bergman's family in Florida were outraged, assuming they were looking at a school opening too early after Hurricane Irma. Her mother-in-law in Washington, D.C., saw the cracked floor and asked if there had been an earthquake. As Bergman told Dearly, she had to set them all straight:
“One, this is not an earthquake. And two, this is not hurricane damage. This is the high school that my son is going to next year.”
Bergman explained to Dearly the crack her family mistook for earthquake damage is just the school sliding into a pond:
“Part of the building is sinking into the man-made pond that was built too close to the building.”
According to reports, water in the school is generally yellow or brown. And then there's the overall issue of mold, mildew, and dirty toilets.
Bergman says that when she asked a teacher why everything seemed so dirty, she was told the janitor is busy filling in cracks and holes with caulk and covering it with paint. That doesn't leave much time to clean toilets.
She's also been told the damage and fire code violations are so bad that some contractors don't even want the job of fixing it.
For three years, Bergman and other parents have been fighting to repair the school, even taking their case to the governor. But at the end of the day, they're on a list, waiting for help from the county government.
Bergman blames Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz (who is now running for governor of Maryland) for the lack of action and empty promises.
While some people might look at the state of Lansdowne High and assume the community isn't invested in changing things, Bergman says that's unfair. She stressed to Dearly the deteriorating school building doesn't reflect the parents or teachers:
“We have a great community of teachers in that building. They’re really amazing. They care about our kids. They just don’t feel comfortable about the conditions.”
The mom-turned-activist is now working to get real help for the school, even streaming video from Lansdowne High to help raise awareness of the problem. She told Dearly she's not willing to wait for change:
“We shouldn’t have to wait six or seven years. This is not healthy to work or try to learn in that building.”
One of her biggest fears is that by the time her youngest son (a second-grader) ends up in high school, things could be even worse. And it's not just her own children she's worried about. As she told Dearly: “No single child, no matter where they are in this country, should be setting foot in a school that looks like that. ... It’s crumbling in front of us.”