State to probe DOE special-education schools after Post exposé
The state comptroller will audit conditions at the city’s special-education schools — after a series of Post articles exposed harrowing conditions at a Queens facility for disabled kids last month.
State officials sent schools Chancellor Richard Carranza a letter Tuesday asking for the Department of Education’s compliance with the probe, slated to launch at the end of August.
“The Office of the State Comptroller has scheduled an audit of health, safety and accessibility conditions in the New York City Department of Education’s District 75,” the letter reads. “We will appreciate your cooperation and that of your staff during the course of our work.”
The DOE’s District 75 network provides schooling and services for students with severe disabilities.
Queens Councilman Robert Holden first sounded the alarm about PS 9, a District 75 school, which is isolated in a heavily industrial section of Maspeth, surrounded by warehouses and fume-spewing trucks.
“This is encouraging news, as the students with special needs in New York City have been overlooked for far too long,” Holden told The Post on Friday of the planned probe. “We must do everything we can to ensure the safety and accessibility standards in District 75 schools are met across the board, and I trust the state comptroller’s office will bring to light any issues our children are facing.”
PS 9, which houses kids with acute mental and physical disabilities, is plagued by peeling paint, dilapidated bathrooms and grimy walls, Holden told Carranza in a May 2018 letter.
“The classrooms are falling apart, there aren’t enough bathrooms, and the cafeteria and kitchen are partitioned off in the deplorable excuse for a gymnasium,” Holden wrote at the time.
Carranza never responded to his pleas until The Post exposed the school’s decrepit state last month.
In one cramped restroom, impaired teens have their diapers changed on a filthy, cracked, vinyl table right up against the urinals. The building is not wheelchair-accessible and dust and fumes from passing trucks seep into classrooms.
The councilman said Carranza finally agreed to discuss the situation but refused to tour the school with him in order to fully comprehend the unhealthy conditions.
The DOE insisted that the building was “safe, clean, and comfortable” and noted that it had spent $14 million on exterior renovations — which are still in progress after two years.
But the department later acknowledged that at least one classroom for the K-8 school’s youngest kids had peeling lead paint.
Despite Holden’s insistence that the DOE earmark funds for an entirely new facility, the department eventually announced that they would be shoveling an additional $16 million into PS 9 for improvements.
“It is clear that Chancellor Carranza cares little about the most vulnerable children in our school system,” Holden said. “This shows you the mentality of this administrator, the schools chancellor trying to fix up something that can’t be fixed.”
He argued that many of the major repairs will take years and that already stricken kids will be subjected to the unhealthy disruptions of major construction.
Parents have complained that poor building acoustics torment sound-sensitive autistic kids — some of whom walk through hallways with their hands over their ears.
The DOE has countered that its plan — which will extend for five years — will fully address Holden’s primary concerns.
“I treat the safety and comfort of all of our students with the utmost seriousness,” Carranza wrote to Holden in a letter outlining the DOE’s initiative.
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