NEW YORK – As New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio prepares to grant school janitors a “prevailing wage” that equates to a 25 percent pay hike, officials are scrambling to address a series of health reports detailing rats, roaches and ant infestations in schools across the city.
A PIX 11 review of city health inspection reports for NYC schools revealed “evidence of mice inside schools o more than 400 visits by health inspectors and live roaches 61 times.”
Health inspectors found the varmints, their excrement, and other unsanitary conditions in school kitchens, cafeterias, and other dining areas.
According to PIX 11:
Inspectors discovered evidence of rat activity in three schools — I.S. 218 in Inwood, P.S. 25 in Mott Haven and the prestigious Bronx High School of Science in Norwood.
Inspectors found “15 rat excreta observed on floor near reach-in refrigerator in dinning area” where students pick up milk. …
On 32 separate visits, health inspectors found rat poison near a refrigerator accessible to kids.
During a visit to P.S. 80 in Staten Island in April 2015 “21 brown/red ants” were seen crawling on cafeteria walls and tables.
Sixty-one schools lacked a thermometer to measure food temperature. Forty-two schools had no soap or cold water for lunchroom staff to wash their hands.
“My kid has been here a very long time and I didn’t know that,” Chelsea Prep parent Robin Sessa told the news site.
“It’s not right,” said Hari Chenglath, another Chelsea Prep parent. “I’m in shock. I mean it; I don’t know what to say.”
The situation follows de Blasio’s attempt earlier this month to convince the Republican-controlled state Senate to extend the law granting him control over the city’s schools for another seven years. The current law granting mayoral control ends in June, the New York Daily News reports.
De Blasio is also in the midst of setting up a nonprofit called the NYC School Support Services Corp., which the New York Post described as “another union payoff in the name of ending the long-running scandal of profiteering custodians.”
The Post editorial described several cases of school custodians busted for bilking the system over the years, and pointed out how a new “prevailing wage” agreement would some custodial staff unions will equate to a roughly 25 percent raise.
“They’re to receive the ‘prevailing wage’ – a term of art that has nothing to do with market-rate pay and means a raise of perhaps 25 percent,” the Post opined. “And they’ll all theoretically be employed by this new nonprofit – though insides expect the city Department of Education’s Facilities Management team will actually call the shots.”
The cost to the city to start the new nonprofit is expected to total $40 million, according to the Post.
For now, it’s business as usual for the city’s public schools, despite the fact that restaurants cited for some of the same violations found in the PIX 11 investigation are typically shut down, according to the news site.
Meanwhile, Eric Goldstein, the city’s chief of school support services, is doing his best to convince parents and the media that the health inspection reports are nothing to worry about.
“They didn’t find a lot of that stuff,” Goldstein said. “We serve some great food, kids really enjoy the food. (Lunchrooms) are clean, they’re safe. If problems do arise and case to case from time to time, I can assure you we’ll get on them right away to rectify them and the inspection process begins again.”