Parents fume over absent fire alarms

Parents from Hod Hasharon are furious that not one school in the area has a working fire-alarm, and say they will not send their children to school on opening day.

The Hod Hasharon parents' committee is threatening to stop the school year from opening in the city on September 1 after learning that not one school in the area has a working fire-alarm system and that most have not had their electrical systems checked, reports The parents were infuriated to discover that the city is planning to spend less than NIS 2 million on repairs and renovations to schools during the summer vacation, less than a third of the NIS 6 million approved for this work in the municipal budget. According to the report, a special council meeting was held on the subject last week after the parents' committee complained that there was a lack of cooperation by the municipality, that information was being withheld, and that urgent repair work was not being done. Backed up by several councilors, the parents demanded that they be given a full report of the safety flaws at the schools and the work being done to rectify them. They were dismayed to hear that, halfway through the summer vacation, only three schools have received permits from the Israel Electric Corporation, while none has even been visited by fire safety officials, and that while fire-alarm systems exist at six schools, not one of those systems is active. The head of the city's infrastructure department, Yossi Meir, told the meeting that only NIS 1.96 million was being allocated to school repairs and renovations over the summer, despite the council's having budgeted NIS 6 million for this work. "We don't have NIS 6 million for summer repairs," Meir said. "It is true that NIS 6 million was approved in the budget … but there is not enough money." Meir said more money would come in to the city after development fees were paid, but the report did not say when or how much this might be. Meir said that of the NIS 1.96 million, NIS 1 million would go toward the completion of an administration building at the new Neveh Ne'eman school, work which had to be finished by August 15 in order to enable the school to open. This would leave less than NIS 1 million for repairs at all the other schools, but Meir said the city "does not play games with matters of electricity and safety" and work would be done at 15 schools to correct safety flaws. He said priority was being given to the most urgent problems and "the situation is not catastrophic." But the city's parents' committee said that without electrical and fire safety permits at all schools, the committee would not allow the school year to open. "We are not interested in the money," committee head Meir Halwani said. "We told the mayor to do what he needs to do to make the educational institutions safe and appropriate for our children ... without permits for electricity and fire safety, in addition to the general permit from the Education Ministry, the school year will not open."