7 On Your Side: Harlem school without a working landline for 3 months

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Nina Pineda reports on the Harlem school without a working phone landline for at least three months.

A group of parents was outraged in Harlem after they say their children's public school had been without a working phone landline for at least three months.

"Every time I have to call to see if they're OK, there's no way to get in touch with them," parent Natalie Irizarry said.

She is shocked and scared that her kids, Galian and Nayella, are in a New York City public school that's been without a working landline phone since February.

"One of them were sick, and I tried to call to see if they're alright," one parent said. "I tried to call. There was not even a line. It didn't ring at all. So I had to come and see what was going on. They told me there was no phone."

"That's bad in case of emergency," another parent said.

The phone frustrations are being felt at P.S. 197, located on the corner of 135th Street and Fifth Avenue, which is home to more than 300 elementary students. The school's principal told 7 On Your Side that Verizon transferred the landline to a single flip phone issued to her by the Department of Education. And that cell phone, she says, has spotty service.

"That's not good," another frustrated parent said. "Why would it be a cellphone? It's supposed to be a landline. It's a school. It's a public school, you need to reach your kids."

"What if the cellphone dies?" another parent said. "The landline cannot die."

The school's principal got in touch with 7 On Your Side, asking for our help. but she was not allowed to talk on camera. So we rang Verizon.

"This was a uniquely complex outage that required the complete replacement and re-splicing of a major underground cable in a hard-to-access area," a representative said.

Yet just a day later, the principal texted 7 On Your Side, saying, "We lit a fire. When I arrived this morning. The telephone system was fully functional. Thanks to the 7 On Your Side Team!"

Now, relieved parents can ring instead of running to the school.

"Now they're working because of you," parent Luz Velez said. "I'm happy for that. Thank you so much."

Verizon, which is responsible for the school's landline infrastructure, told 7 On Your Side that the school's service was restored before we reached out to them. But, of course, the principal confirmed the fix happened after we intervened.

A spokesman for the New York City Department of Education said it "provided a cell phone to the site as soon as we were informed of the infrastructure failure and held daily calls with Verizon regarding progress on the repairs."

Verizon Statement: "This was a uniquely complex outage that required the complete replacement and re-splicing of a major underground cable in a hard-to-access area. Verizon's first and foremost priority is our customers and we stayed in regular contact with the DOE on this from the start all the way to the complete restoration of service earlier this week. We regret and apologize for the inconvenience and concern this caused the school and its students' parents."

Department of Education statement: "DOE provided a cell phone to the site as soon as we were informed of the infrastructure failure, and held daily calls with Verizon regarding progress on the repairs. The infrastructure failure was escalated to a Verizon Managing Director; it was originally scheduled to be addressed the week of 4/16, but was further delayed due to flooding from a storm on 4/16. We'll continue to work with partners and vendors to address school technology issues as swiftly as possible."

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