According to LJI, the State Fire Marshall made a surprise visit to MLK Charter in order to nitpick enough to order it closed in advance of President Obama's visit.
For Immediate Release
October 15, 2009
King Charter School Principal Doris Hicks said couldn't she believe such a thing could happen on the eve of a visit to the school by the President of the United States.
On Tuesday afternoon, October 13th, the Louisiana Fire Marshal made an unexpected, surprise visit to, and inspection of Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School for Science and Technology, ordering the closure of the high school campus for 30 days citing alleged fire code violations.
This news is significant because the school was the site today of President Barak Obama's first stop on his visit to New Orleans, and because of the nature of the purported violations.
"We expanded our campus two years ago and have been safely operating the high school in trailers since then without any problems. Suddenly (they say) we're endangering our children?" Dr. Hicks said. “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our students. "
The Louisiana Fire Marshal reports directly to Louisiana's republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.
The alleged code violations included having enough fire extinguishers, but purportedly the wrong size, and failing to have sufficient ingress/egress to an empty building.
Dr. Austin Allen, a pro bono architect for the school and professor at the University of Colorado at Denver, indicated the cited problems were in no way life threatening. "We were able to resolve most of the issues within 24 hours; I can't understand why the fire marshal set this 30 day penalty," Dr. Allen said.
King Charter School can only hope this incident actually exposes the extreme school facility crisis being experienced in districts throughout Louisiana.
Louisiana Justice Institute Managing Director and King School attorney Tracie Washington expressed frustration with the situation.
"I can only hope Louisiana's Fire Marshal and Governor Jindal will care about all the children in Louisiana, not just those being visited by President Obama. Interestingly, neither offered assistance to King School in mitigating any safety issues for our students, which certainly raises questions their motives, “ Ms. Washington said.
The Presidential visit to King Charter School was a complete success, despite this Fire Marshal interruption.
Really? A closure for wrong-sized fire extinguishers just a day or two before the President's visit?
That's just bad form.