PEARL RIVER, N.Y. -- A Pearl River school trustee who hopes to be a state senator said he wants both public and private schools to be held to the same fire safety standards.
Tom DePrisco, who is running on the Republican ticket in the 38th Senate District race, pointed recently to “flaws” in the state Department of Education’s fire inspection regulations.
For instance, he said, qualifications for public and private school fire inspectors are significantly different.
According to current law, public schools must be reviewed by inspectors “who are qualified pursuant to the procedures established by the NYS fire administrator,” DePrisco said.
On the other hand, a private school can request that it be inspected by someone from its local fire department.
Private schools also have the option to employ “persons who, in the judgment of the school authorities, are qualified to make such an inspection,” he added.
DePrisco said that current regulations ban students and employees from being in buildings without valid certificates of occupancy.
This is not, he said, stated in regulations for private schools.
DePrisco pointed to media reports that Mesivta Ahavas Hatorah has been operating a religious school in New Hempstead for several years without a certificate of occupancy.
The building owner, Congregation Bais K’nesses, rents it to the yeshiva, which is now seeking a permit to keep operating, according to a report by lohud.com.
The village’s fire inspector, who has safety concerns, is not recommending that a school operate at 720 Union Road and will not issue a certificate of occupancy until the permit process is complete, lohud.com reported.
Day said inspectors were turned away at a dozen sites.
A newly formed group calling itself the School Religious Freedom Coalition later agreed to allow inspectors in.
The group’s lawyer said the real issue was whether the county complied with state law.
Nyack attorney Dennis Lynch said the county has to give schools “reasonable” notice before making inspections, has to have properly credentialed inspectors, and has to allow a school official to be on site when the inspections are being done.
DePrisco is vice president of the Pearl River Board of Education and the Rockland County School Boards Association.
The 38th Senate District covers the towns of Orangetown, Clarkstown and Ramapo in Rockland County and the town of Ossining and the village of Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County. It is now represented by Democrat David Carlucci.