ROCKLAND COUNTY, N.Y. – Rockland County Executive Ed Day said Monday that health officials will monitor Ateres Bais Yaakov Academy of Rockland, a private school on Summit Park Road, and close it down if students continue to be exposed to unsafe conditions.
"The victims here are 400 children whose education has been disrupted," he said. "Their parents, who are paying approximately $13,000 in tuition, had every right to expect that their children were at a safe school."
The school at 200 Summit Park Road opened under a temporary certificate of occupancy granted by the town of Ramapo, which performs inspections for the village of New Hempstead.
The school was allowed to open despite lack of a permanent water source, without its own electricity, a without a functional fire hydrant and with ongoing construction.
"We had hoped to see a new beginning in Ramapo – an adherence to rules, respect for safety," Day said. "Unfortunately, it seems to be business as usual in the town of Ramapo – where any kind of development, even schools, is allowed, no questions asked."
Day is especially disappointed that the monitor put in place by the state to make sure that Ramapo enforces fire and safety codes also failed.
"This school never should have opened," he said. "It is another case of build first, consider the rules later."
Three inspectors from the Rockland County Department of Health visited the school this morning. No students were there and it was unclear when they will return to the trailers that make up the New Hempstead campus.
The school still does not have a permanent supply of potable water. The school appears to be complying with a temporary agreement to truck in water rather than relying on an unauthorized private well.
County inspectors tested water and surveyed conditions at the school.
It appears at this time that chlorine readings were at the lower end of acceptable, Day said.
County inspectors will continue to monitor the situation.
If the school again hooks up to an unapproved water source and is allowing children to drink that water, the County Executive said that the Commissioner of Health is prepared to shut it down.
Inspectors also observed a new trench dug behind the classroom trailers – with no fencing around it.
This school is still not hooked into the power grid.
Judi Hunderfund, Rockland County director of Consumer Protection, said the department will take strong action against the contractor who put together the unsafe electrical system.
"If you do shoddy, unacceptable electrical work, you risk losing your license," Day said.
A makeshift fire hydrant at the school was tested by the firefighters over the weekend and it failed.
"What would happen to the children in that school in a fire with a non-working fire hydrant?" he asked. "There is a reason we have rules. That reason is safety."
Rockland County will use every power it has to make sure that these 400 students are safe, Day said.
"But we shouldn't have to – safety and compliance with the rules need to be a given everywhere, including in the town of Ramapo," he said. "And the state needs to step in when Ramapo fails to follow the same rules as everyone else."
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