Florida State Education Commissioner Tom Gallagher, who threatened to delay the opening of dozens of Miami-Dade public schools that failed to fix fire and safety code violations, backed down when faced with the reality of having to do so.
An extension of Gallagher’s deadline was requested until February 1, 2001. The Miami-Dade school board certified that only 161 of the district’s schools had no serious life-safety violations, according to Fire-Rescue Deputy Director Charles Phillips.
Phillips told The Miami Herald that when his staff conducted a random inspection of 30 schools certified as safe by the district, 30 percent of them had serious life-safety violations.
Although local fire inspectors are required to inspect schools for fire safety violations, they have no authority to require correction of the violations. Administrators have assigned some 40 “fire watchers” to at least eight Miami-Dade schools that have no working fire alarms or have blocked fire exits.
“I think this is still the fire marshals making much ado about nothing,” school board attorney Humberto Ocariz told The Miami Herald.