Crusader staff report
As Gary schools begin the new school year under a new emergency manager, Gary Fire Department officials said all 12 school buildings have fire code violations.
A spokesman said officials found fire extinguishers that were not recharged and some fire systems were not connected to the fire department, according to one news report.
In addition, officials found that some vendors who serviced school fire equipment declined to return, because they haven’t been paid. But Paul Pastorek, chief of staff to Emergency Manager Peggy Hinckley said money was found to pay the vendors and have the schools in compliance by September 15.
Pastorek said the highest priority is to get all the alarm systems connected to the fire department and have them recertified. He said the schools need to hold fire drills and have a written evacuation plan according to a news report. Pastorek said he gives updates to the Distressed Unit Appeal board members three days a week on the schools’ progress and finances.
According to Pastorek the fire department inspected the schools before students returned. He added that after the violations were noted, four professionals examined the fire systems in every school.
A fire department spokesman said the department will re-inspect the schools once improvements are completed.
Fire Chief Paul Bradley expressed a concern after a fire ignited at the closed Lew Wallace High School. The building is still full of books and other combustible materials.
Maintenance crews have also been working to repair leaky roofs, plumbling problems and bathroom toilets. Pastorek said about 40 percent of the toilets and urinals didn’t work. He said about 80 percent of them had no toilet paper.
As to the roofs, Pastorek reported that 90 percent of the leaks have been repaired. He said each school now has at least one working boiler, and backup boilers should be in place in two weeks.
Pastorek said it has cost about $150,000 to make the repairs so far. He also said possible federal funding was identified to cover some of the costs.
The chief of staff said the boy’s gender program at the Watson Academy for Boys at 2065 Mississippi, is idle because many parents didn’t want to send their children across the city to the Bailly Preparatory Academy. The school closed after the end of the 2016-2017 school year because it had only 128 students.