Test anxiety: Exams force kids back into shaky school days after wall collapse

EXCLUSIVE: IS 201 waited two hours to call 911 after wall crashed in
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

Class is back in session — whether you like it or not.

Students returned to IS 201 in Dyker Heights on April 23 — just three days after a wall collapsed into a packed fourth-floor classroom.

Parents said they don’t want to send their children back into the school so soon after the cave-in, but complain they have little choice, because youngsters are taking high-stakes state math exams this week.

“He has to go because they have the tests,” said Maria Mancini, who’s son was in the classroom when the wall fell. “I’m in a tough position right now — I really don’t want to send him back.”

No one was injured in Monday’s collapse, but the Department of Buildings ordered the entire school evacuated, and told Community Board 10 district manager Josephine Beckmann that as many as 30 classrooms in the 100-year-old building may have been compromised by ongoing renovations.

Another parent said she plans on keeping her eighth-grade daughter home until the Department of Education provides details on the structural failure — even if that means forgoing tests.

“That’s my daughters science classroom — is she going to be sitting in there again?” said Jennifer Sullivan, who did not send her daughter to school on April 23. “I cannot send her back there until someone explains more, and I am flabbergasted that we are not being given any kind of detail.”

Neither the school nor the Department of Education told parents when a fourth-story classroom wall caved in just minutes after a teacher rushed students from the room, according to parents. Sullivan said she first heard about the incident through an exaggerated word-of-mouth account, leading to serious confusion and concern.

“Because there was no communication, I had to fly out of here like a lunatic thinking that my child was in a building collapse, and I can’t shake that,” she said.

An education department spokesman said the department immediately contacted parents of kids in the classroom and contacted all other parents that day.

But neither Sullivan nor Mancini — who said her son was in the classroom at the time of the collapse — received calls, they said.

The school’s principal posted a letter on the school’s website on April 23 — three days after the accident — explaining that a window collapsed and that inspectors had cleared the building.

The city issued a full vacate order while workers examined the structure on April 21 and 22. The fire department is still finishing a formal report on the inspection, a spokesman said.

Meanwhile, pupils are taking exams in the building, which still has open violations with the city for “failure to maintain bldg [sic] in code-compliant manner” due to broken doors and door jams, city records show.

A 2013 inspection deemed the building’s facade in need of immediate repair. The city has been working to fix the building since last year, a spokesman said.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.