State DOE calls Ridge Street School's handling of construction 'brazen, perhaps criminal' after inspection
The New York State Education Department says a crime may have been committed after one of Blind Brook School District’s schools shut down right as the school year kicked off.
The state Education Department shut down Ridge Street School due to fire safety hazards for students, including a new system that hasn’t been inspected yet.
The district says it was ordered to close down the school Wednesday, but the superintendent says they’ve been working on concerns about construction since the beginning of the week.
Parents, however, are furious because their children were in school Monday through Wednesday, and they found out classes were canceled through an online newspaper article. They say they didn’t get official word from the district until the day after they found out themselves.
Parents demanded answers from district officials and called for a new leadership.
Now the state is calling for change as well.
The Education Department issued a scathing letter directed at the school board on Friday over the fact that the school had opened in the first place on Monday. Children were in the building for three days despite not having a certificate of occupancy.
Right now, there is construction of an addition at the school, and inspectors found the fire control system is not fully online, among other potential violation— hence no certificate.
Commissioner of the New York Department Of Education Betty Rosa wrote in a letter to the district:
“Parents trust their school leaders to keep their children safe when they send them to school. An intentional decision to occupy a school building lacking a C.O. represents a brazen, and perhaps criminal, disregard for the safety of others. It would certainly support the removal of school officers for a willful violation of law or neglect of duty under Education Law 306. It is unfathomable that it took the issuance of an S.E.D. directive to close the school, which was the only morally and legally acceptable action under the circumstances.”
The school board vehemently denied the accusations at a meeting Friday night. They showed a copy of the certificate of occupancy they say is valid until March of next year.
“The thing to take away is we would never put your children and our children in harm’s way,” says Blind Brook Board President Scott Jaffee. “We are outraged by the allegations that have been made against the district, this board and our district, and that's where we stand."
There have been inspectors at the school for more than 10 hours, and the district is waiting for the results of that inspection.
The board says they will make a decision on what to do next based on those results, but they maintain that the letter from the Department of Education is full of inaccuracies and is simply wrong.