GARY, Ind. (AP) – Budget constraints are making it difficult for Gary school officials to address fire code violations found at all but one of the district’s schools.
Gary’s chief fire inspector, John A. Leslie Jr., said he’s disturbed that outstanding violations found at the Gary Community School Corp. last school year still have not been corrected. Those include some schools that lack properly serviced sprinkler and fire alarm systems.
“I’d call not having a sprinkler or fire alarm system service a serious deficiency and it’s at multiple schools,” he told the Post-Tribune of Merrillville for a story.
District officials said they were assessing and prioritizing the outstanding violations, but that a tight budget has created a backlog of maintenance issues.
District Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said all of her district’s principals have received inspection forms and have been told to have the violations addressed.
“It’s becoming a major issue,” she said.
Leslie said Gary’s fire department annually inspects all the schools in the city, making sure their sprinkler systems have been serviced along with fire extinguishers and alarms. Inspectors also check to make sure each school has functioning exit signs, smoke detectors and other safety equipment.
Leslie said inspections were done in July, August and September and that each school had 30 days to correct violations. He said when the violations were not fixed, he set up a meeting with Pruitt.
The only school among the district’s 19 schools was the newly renovated Frankie McCullough Academy for Girls.
John Erickson, a spokesman for the state fire marshal, said that under Indiana law, schools that violate Indiana’s fire code can face a fine of up to $250 day. But he said fines aren’t expected against the Gary district because officials there are working with the state to bring the district into compliance.
A contingent of officials including State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson inspected Gary’s Roosevelt College and Career Academy and told district officials to prepare a 30-day plan to rectify two outstanding code violations at the school. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security had cited the schools with 13 fire and building code violations on Sept. 4.
The school is operated by EdisonLearning Inc. under a contract with the Indiana Department of Education, which took control of the school because of its poor academic record. But it is still owned and maintained by Gary Community School Corp., which is expected to fix the problems.