By Rockland County Executive Ed Day
Rockland County fire inspectors have already started inspecting 49 private schools that either failed to comply with regulations or were given questionable grades. It’s not something we wanted to do.
But when the schools failed to follow the law and the municipalities in which they are located turned a blind eye, we had no choice. We will not look the other way when children are in danger.
It’s hard to understand why any parent or school administrator would knowingly allow children to attend school in a building that is unsafe. It’s even harder to understand why anyone would fight our efforts to ensure safety for all students.
When the state Education Department asked us to step in and do these inspections, we were relieved. These schools are located all over the county with the majority of them in Ramapo and Spring Valley.
All of us know that there are private schools that are not meeting fire codes.
This is a battle we have been fighting for a long time. Thanks to pressure from a bipartisan coalition that included Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, we are seeing action.
We will finally be able to protect the safety of children in Rockland. Our inspectors are looking at 26 schools that have not filed safety reports despite being asked repeatedly to do so.
At the state’s request, we will also be looking at 23 schools that were previously inspected by the Ramapo fire inspector who gave them passing marks. He somehow didn’t see blatant fire code violations like broken and inoperable exit doors, electrical panels with no covers, exposed wiring and other dangers.
The integrity of our inspectors is above reproach. And they have very good eyesight.
We are relieved that the state has recognized that children – and first responders – are being put at risk.
We are putting an end to that.
We have a core team of four inspectors making sure these buildings are safe. They are working in conjunction with town fire inspectors in some cases. All the inspectors are current or former fire chiefs and all are state certified.
Their dedication and integrity is beyond question.
And they will operate with this in mind: there is one set of rules that everyone has to follow. No exceptions, no special treatment.
Enough is enough.