BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – When the Erie County Health Department closed the kitchen at Buffalo’s Makowski Early Childhood Center, last week, due to rodent feces and 26 other health violations, the teachers say they had already made an issue of health conditions months earlier.
“For months our teachers have been complaining about the unsanitary conditions at the school,” said an agitated Philip Rumore, president of the Buffalo Federation of Teachers. Rumore said the teachers complaints seemed to be falling on deaf ears, so they filed a formal grievance.
“They tried to work it out with the engineer, they tried to work it out with the principal. Finally the Health Department had to come in, we had to file a grievance on it–we filed a grievance on that–and the heating conditions.”
The teachers’ grievance indicates the school is extremely dirty, floors are not swept often, dust from building renovations last summer is still in the halls, six months later, and the complaint was aimed mainly at the inaction of the school’s chief engineer.
Other points made in the grievance: the chief engineer, who is responsible for maintenance and custodial services, does not answer his office phone, nor reply to email. A classroom bathroom was closed for a month because the toilet didn’t work, the main hall floor is only washed twice a month, and it takes an hour to clean up vomit.
Rumore pointed out there were several other issues listed in the grievance, which were also cited by health inspectors as violations, “When it comes to urine on the floor in the kids’ bathrooms, when it comes to rat feces and things like that, that should be taken care of immediately.”
But it wasn’t until the Erie County Health Department closed the kitchen at Makowski last week, that more than token action was taken, and even at that, the kitchen had to be inspected twice more to reopen it, and health officials say the rodent problem still has not been resolved in other parts of the building.
Willie Green is a Makowski parent and the vice president for the Stop the Violence Coalition, and he is outraged.
“I have a four-year-old who is spelling words and being taught very well, but I am concerned about the food there, and the rodents, and I want to make sure that it is safe.”
Green wants the rodent problem solved before it gets out of hand, “whoever is not doing their job needs to get on their job, and they need to do it ASAP.”
Parents and other adults familiar with the controversy believe the root of the problem at Makowski is the school district’s chain of command which exempts a building’s chief engineer from the authority of the prinicpal, and that quirk applies to every public school in Buffalo.
Green and Rumore put the responsibility on the school district to get the job done.