The preparation of a Colt Street building to house Yes and Harp Academies for students is being hampered by city inspection delays, according to district officials.
Owner of the building scheduled inspections “several” times, but has not been able to get city inspectors to sign off on the building, according to district officials.
Steve Morlino, the district’s facilities director, told school board members the building needs a temporary certificate of occupancy for it to open for students and teachers on January 4th, 2016. He said a final electrical, fire, and building inspection remains pending..
The developer, who owns 5 Colt Street, scheduled “several” inspections with the city, but each time, for one reason or another, the inspections were postponed, the director told board members.
“Why do we have this protracted postponing?” asked Errol Kerr, school board member. “It seems they are cavalierly pushing it back,” he said. The district is incurring costs every day the building is delayed, he said.
“This is about the children of Paterson. You should be expediting everything to get it right so our kids can be seated,” said Kerr. “I don’t know if it’s out of spite. What have we done? I don’t know if there’s a political threat here,” he said.
Ruben Gomez, the city’s economic development director, whose Community Improvement Division handles building inspections, said the city is waiting on the owner to submit architectural documents.
Gomez said the safety issues at the building have to be addressed. Council president William McKoy said a plumbing inspection approval can be quickly given; however, he noted electrical and building inspections deal with safety and have to be conducted with care to ensure the students’ well-being is not put at jeopardy.
Morlino said the documents are connected to a new platform that was installed by the developer to assuage fears that arose regarding the emergency evacuation plan. Now, the evacuation has a platform over a roof, he said. Many have raised concerns over the fire escape evacuation plan including several members of the city’s planning board which approved the use of the site as a school building.
Gomez said fire and electrical sub code officials are at the building today. Both Gomez and Morlino said the owner should submit the documents this week. Gomez said the city has been working with the developers to get the documents and move forward with the necessary inspections and eventual approvals.
The district expected to hold classes at the building in September. The delay prompted protest from Harp Academy students who were going without books and other educational materials. Some of the students during their protest expressed displeasure at the idea of sharing the building with the alternative high school Yes Academy.
The district scrapped plans to house Yes Academy at the building until a protest by students of the alternative high school persuaded the superintendent to include them in the same building.
Delays pushed a new opening date to January 4th, 2016.