BY JANIE ROSMAN
Neither the 170-plus little boys nor the unknown number of teachers was hurt when the boiler at Con Kolel Chasidel Rachminstrivka in Suffern exploded early Sunday morning.
The yeshiva elementary school at 95-97 Highview Rd. is one of 60 schools cited by the NYS Board of Education for failing to file fire safety reports, as the Rockland County Times reported last week.
“This house/school has been in violation for years,” one source told the Rockland County Times. “Miraculously they dodged a bullet with no injuries/deaths.”
Neighbors fear the Monsey/Tallman Fire Chiefs refused to take action because they’re employed by the Town of Ramapo. When this reporter contacted Tallman Volunteer Fire Dept. Chief Christopher T. Stevens Sunday night via email, he replied within the hour.
“This morning we were dispatched to a call at the yeshiva at 97 Highview Rd.,” Stevens said via email. “Upon arrival there was no fire. Upon investigation we found a broken boiler in the basement. We isolated domestic water and electric to the boiler.”
“There was no explosion,” Ramapo Director of Building, Planning and Zoning Anthony Mallia said. “The boiler overheated, and the pressure valve released some steam, which set off the detector above it,” he said. “The alarm worked perfectly,” the fire department responded, and the kids were back in school immediately.”
Mallia said the building does contain a functioning sprinkler system and has been inspected by the town.
Monday morning was business as usual with buses dropping off children at the door and the usual amount of cars. Between 20 to 25 students occupy each of the seven classrooms: two classrooms in the modular building and five classrooms in the house.
“It is hard to believe that a school listed in a state department memo as lacking a required fire safety report was still occupied yesterday when the incident with the boiler explosion occurred,” Preserve Rockland town supervisor candidate Michael Parietti said. “This is reckless endangerment of school children.”
On the other side at 99 Highview Rd., Annette Doerr and her husband have seen a steady stream of students daily pile into the four-bedroom, three-bathroom property.
“The school owns 95-97 Highview Rd.,” Doerr said. “It was a house, and I don’t know what it is now.” No sooner did her former neighbors sell their home to what they thought was a couple than that couple flipped it to a yeshiva.
“This has been affecting me since 2008,” Doerr said when asked how the Sunday morning boiler explosion affected her. “I’m also very involved with the fire department, and my father (79) is an ex-chief.”
The schools have been operating in modular trailers for three years; town law states they (trailers) can only be used for one year. “More than 200 little boys are there Sunday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to about 4 or 5 p.m.,” another source said. “To date, there is no approved site plan on file since the school opened in October 2009.”
Con Kolel Chasidel Rachminstrivka owns number 93 which, Mallia said, is looking to combine the three lots into one school eventually. “It has not been approved yet, they haven’t asked permission, and it needs some minor work to make it legal to potentially use it.”
Children were observed entering the 93 address Monday morning.
“Prefabricated classrooms are approved by the state and are the only type we allow any where in the town,” Mallia said.
The difference between these and trailers, he said, is trailers have wheels, and modulars are made for this specific purpose (classrooms).
“Only in Ramapo” can “so-called school” continue to receive public money despite numerous safety violations, and outgoing district Superintendent Joel Klein’s admission that “school administrators failed to certify any of the private schools were actually teaching the curriculum required to receive those funds,” Parietti remarked.
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