A building inspector was unaware a charter elementary was opening in Davie until a few days before school started. He closed the school for a month because operators had renovated the building without getting required permits.Code violations dealt a severe blow to a three-year-old charter school in North Lauderdale. The county ordered it closed for the entire year a few days before 300 students were to return this fall.
A middle and high school sharing the same building in Lauderdale Lakes had to hire two firefighters to rove the halls for a month until the school got permits to operate its sprinkler system.As more charter schools open, concern is increasing over the safety of these public schools that are run privately. Compounding the problem is uncertainty about whether these schools -- often operating in converted warehouses, storefronts and office buildings -- should meet the requirements of private businesses or of public schools, which have more stringent safety standards. Some operators renovate and set up classrooms without getting required building permits, traffic controls and safety inspections, according to a review of documents..."I'm not sure the county and the cities know where they fit into this plan," said Betsy Donate, charter schools liaison for Broward schools.Counties and cities are required to inspect charter schools and hold them to the same safety standards as traditional public schools...But local governments don't always agree on their responsibilities. Some charter schools don't know what kind of safety inspections they need for their new buildings, and sometimes school districts aren't holding either group accountable...In early September, in a review of charter school inspection documents submitted to the school district, [Broward Schools Safety Inspector Jerry Graziose] said he found that many schools didn't have paperwork showing they had been properly inspected to meet the code for an educational facility."Safety standards shouldn't be different if the child is in a charter school ... and right now the standards are different. What I've seen is disturbing," said Graziose, who isn't required to inspect charter schools, but does so because they're overlooked, he said...All three charter schools that opened this fall in Broward had to correct safety or code violations and at least five older Broward charter schools had licensing that does not meet state standards for public schools, Graziose said.Inspections guard against hazards as serious as electrical fires, accidents and chaos during an emergency evacuation...Broward's 20 charter schools collectively had so many code violations and mismatched data that Graziose plans to meet with school, city and county officials in November to devise an accountability checklist...
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“Worries Grow Over Safety Of Charter Schools.” Sun Sentinel (FL), 10/12/2003