Calls for NY state to take over East Ramapo Central School District's 13 school buildings

Marcus Solis Image
Wednesday, July 26, 2023
East Ramapo School District is facing serious water issues
The East Ramapo School District is facing serious water isues as well as other infrastructure problems. Reporter Marcus Solis has the latest.

SPRING VALLEY, New York (WABC) -- High lead levels were detected in the water at East Ramapo Central School District in 2016, but water quality is not the only safety concern.

All 13 buildings in the district recently failed a mandated safety inspection, and now parents and local organizations are calling for a state takeover of the school.

The district's issues are being compared to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan and likened to environmental racism.

In 2021, 10 classrooms at Spring Valley High School were contaminated with black mold. The building was then closed over concerns that asbestos could be released during repairs.

The district has approximately $90 million in COVID relief money from the federal government, but state monitors estimate the repairs could cost between $235 and $500 million.

"There has been continuous deferred maintenance, and there is only so far you can defer maintenance," said Mary Fox-Alter, a former state monitor.

Incoming seniors have never known what is like to drink from a water fountain at their high school.

"Say you just came out of seventh period playing basketball, and you're all excited for some water," said Fabrice Adelson, an incoming senior. "You go through the hallways, and there isn't even water available... that's not right."

Instead of tap water, East Ramapo Central School District has been using water coolers for the last several years.

A photo captured by a parent showed alleged mold in one of the dispensers, and students say the coolers are often empty.

Ninety-two percent of the district's 10,000 students are Black and Latino. The majority of the board of education are members of the Orthodox community, where children overwhelmingly attend private schools.

"The voting majority are white folks who do not have any personal connection to public schools, and do not believe in the importance of public education," said Johanna Miller of the New York City Liberties Union.

The NYCLU, along with two dozen organizations, is now asking for a state takeover. Parents have been requesting that move for years.

"The damage has been done," said Terry Gonzalez, a parent in the district. "Lives are in danger here."

ALSO READ: Gilgo Beach murders: Complete timeline of events leading up to Rex Heuermann's arrest


* More Northern Suburbs news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

* Follow us on YouTube

Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News

Have a breaking news tip or an idea for a story we should cover? Send it to Eyewitness News using the form below. If attaching a video or photo, terms of use apply.