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State Cites 91 Safety Problems at School 4

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Photos provided by Paterson Education Association
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PATERSON, NJ – State inspectors found 91 occupational safety violations at School 4, including at least 35 designated as “serious,’’ according to reports issued by the state labor department.

The infractions, including blocked exits routes and leaks near electrical fixtures, could result in fines that would total more than $123,000 per day if Paterson Public Schools does not fix the problems by the deadlines, the state reports say.

The New Jersey labor department inspected the school during three days in October and November in response to complaints by the Paterson Education Association (PEA), the union that represents most rank-and-file district employees, including teachers. The union identified the problems during August and said the district did nothing about them, prompting the request for state intervention.

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“What’s really inexplicable is that we had to go through the place to do the walk-through ourselves,’’ said Peter Tirri, president of the PEA. “They weren’t worried about these problems,’’ Tirri said of district officials. “They wanted to go ahead and open the school the way it was.’’

Christopher Sapara-Grant, the district’s executive director for facilities, said all but six of the violations have been items. “We have some materials on order to complete these items that are not a risk to the building occupants,’’ said Sapara-Grant.  “If we are not able to get those items in for some reason, we are allowed to request an extension.”

School 4 had been shut down for all of the 2011-12 academic year for repairs because of damage from the historic flooding that hit Paterson after Hurricane Irene.

The violations were filed under New Jersey’s Public Employee Occupational Safety and Health Act. They covered problems in classrooms, hallways and the basement.

"The way we look at it, whatever problems that are going on in that building could affect the kids as well,'' said Tirri.

The violations included:

In Room 409, there was evidence of water seepage near electrical light fixtures. “Electrical equipment was not free from recognized hazards that were likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees,’’ the reports said.

In Room 415, the grounding device for an electrical circuit was not working.

In stairways #C and 4D the emergency lights “did not operate on a backup battery,’’’ the reports said.

In the 1st floor kitchen, the exit sign was not illuminated.

There were no records to show that portable fire extinguishers were being inspected on a monthly basis.

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