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Friday, April 18, 2014

Crying fire in a crowded school

By Sarina Trangle
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Fire alarms have become a routine part of attending school on the John F. Kennedy Campus, dictating schedules to a degree that rivals class bells, students say.

Siren wails have interrupted class at least once a week, often more, during the first two-and-a-half months of school. Students say after they rush out the first or fourth floor entrances it takes at least 25 minutes for school security agents to direct the 3,029 campus body through metal detectors. Those at the end of the line often go home, leaving a dent in some of the eight JFK Campus schools’ classrooms. 

“They do it to skip class, but now they’re actually starting fires. They were lighting toilet paper on fire,” said Joshua Santos, a junior at Bronx Engineering and Technology Academy. “It’s getting annoying.”

Though the FDNY said it’s still investigating what sparked a “small rubbish fire” in a fourth floor bathroom of JFK on Oct. 23, students say the blaze was intentionally set. A school security agent arrested a 16-year-old student on Oct. 25 after she was seen yanking the levy of a fire alarm, the 50th Precinct said. She was charged with reckless endangerment.

“It’s always a big catastrophe –– people pushing and everything. Say it happens last period, I have a gym and it drops to 10 to 15 students,” said Melanie Sabino, a sophomore at BETA, who says she hopes the alarm doesn’t go off during Algebra again since it’s her hardest subject.

Dihara Jourdain, a freshman at Bronx High School of Law and Finance, said the alarm no longer fazes her.

“We have to go out. But we know they’re pulling it, so we don’t care anymore,” she said.

Lisa Luft, principal of John F. Kennedy High School, said not all of the alarms were accidental. She noted the alarms went off during the bathroom blaze and when an escalator started smoking. Beginning this fall, the DOE has required the JFK Campus to rescan all students after evacuations, which Ms. Luft said has led to longer waits when the school holds fire drills.

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