For months, school buildings severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy have appeared to be back to normal, but many of the major repairs have not even begun, and in more than a half-dozen one thing that's still out is the fire alarm system. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
P.S. 207 has a human fire alarm: Men and women paid to stand in the hallways and look for smoke. It's been this way ever since Sandy flooded the building. Parents worry it's a dangerous substitute.
"It's not as quick as pulling a alarm system on the wall. You just walk over, you pull the bar and the fire alarm system immediately contacts the fire department as opposed to a fire guard who has to contact the main office, make an announcement, have the children leave and then also contact the fire department. Two, three minutes can make a difference," said Allison Jasiak, a P.S. 207 parent.
P.S. 207 is one of seven school buildings with a fire guard instead of a working alarm, and one of 30 schools with temporary boilers hooked up outside. These were supposed to be quick Band-Aids, to get kids and teachers back in the classrooms as soon as possible.
In fact, within three months, school officials managed to get 75,000 students back into hundreds of damaged buildings.
They had replaced flooded equipment, supplies, floors and walls, cleaned oil spills like the one at P.S. 207 and installed temporary infrastructure.
But now the issue is how little progress has been made since then. The DOE's emergency repairs have been holding up so far, but they were not meant to be permanent solutions.
City officials explain they had been waiting because they don't just want to repair these systems -- they want to make changes so that boilers, fire alarms, water heaters and phone systems will be safe from future storms.
FEMA will pay for those changes, but only if it decides they are "cost effective."
"We do want FEMA to approve - or bless, so-to-speak, many of these projects, because that's the key to getting them reimbursed," said Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway.
But parents say the fire alarm systems should be replaced immediately, and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott told NY1 he agrees.
"We're not going to wait any longer. We made a commitment to start the work, and we want to make sure we start it as soon as possible," Walcott said.
On Tuesday morning, a team from the School Construction Authority arrived at P.S. 207 to do just that.