CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Parents are concerned after watching Carl Monday's investigation into basement classrooms at Cleveland Metropolitan School District's Ben Franklin Elementary school.
Despite code violations that the Cleveland Fire Department called "imminent life safety issues" the school continued to place students in four basement classrooms and a cafeteria. Some of the violations date back to the start of the school year. Other violations go back decades.
One of the classrooms was a former storage room used to tutor children with learning and reading disabilities. It was a room with bad lighting, peeling paint and a toilet leaking from the floor above.
In a prepared statement released yesterday, school spokesperson Roseann Canfora called the allegation "false" and said pictures of the room Cleveland 19 used were taken during the summer recess. But a Cleveland 19 source says the photos were taken about two months ago, when school was in full session.
If there were any doubts, Anna Burnette says her 3rd grade son was tutored daily inside the basement storage room from the beginning of the year. Chief Investigator Carl Monday showed her the photos used in the report. "Let me show you these pictures…do they look familiar?" asked Monday. "Yes…that's where my son would have his reading with his teacher" says Burnette.
Ms. Burnette also claims she was told the school had no money to make the necessary repairs. "My husband and I offered to help clean up everything and paint everything, and got not one returned phone call."
Carl Monday reported Thursday night that a Cleveland Fire Inspector expressed concern about conditions in the school basement way back in September 2015. The inspector said that the former fallout shelter was "good for keeping bombs and tornadoes out" but bad for getting children out of a fire. The basement continued to be used, even after the school was cited for lack of emergency access, missing dire doors, and an antiquated alarm system. The inspector concluded "I do not believe any children should be in these rooms."
"I was terrified something could happen. They still actually have lunch down there, in the basement next to the classrooms. What if something happens to one of those kids? They're little!" says Burnette.
Last month, The Cleveland 19 Investigative Unit started asking questions. Then, the Cleveland Fire Department moved in and the school corrected the violations. A human "fire watch monitor" now guards the basement until a sprinkler system can be installed at a later date.
Meanwhile, Ben Franklin Elementary School's principal and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District continue to refuse Chief Investigator Carl Monday's request for an on-camera interview.
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