CHELSEA, Manhattan — For some of New York’s 1.1 million public school students, free breakfast and lunch at school is the only meal their families can afford.
But PIX11 News found critical health code violations at several city schools.
“My kid has been here a very long time and I didn’t know that,” said Robin Sessa, whose kids attend Chelsea Prep.
City health inspectors found 125 “fresh mice excreta along wall/floor junction” in the school’s kitchen and dining room.
“It’s not right,” said Hari Chenglath, a member of the school’s PTA.
Some 15 live roaches "were observed crawling on floor/wall behind reach-down refrigerator in dining room," according to inspection reports PIX11 News obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
“I’m in shock. I mean it; don’t know what to say,” Chenglath said.
Inspectors discovered evidence of rat activity in three schools — I.S. 218 in Inwood, P.S. 25 in Mott Haven and the prestigious Bronx High School of Science in Norwood.
Inspectors found “15 rat excreta observed on floor near reach-in refrigerator in dinning area” where students pick up milk.
“I disagree with that. They didn’t find a lot of that stuff,” said Eric Goldstein, the education department's chief of school support services.
There was evidence of mice inside schools on more than 400 visits by health inspectors and live roaches 61 times, according to the inspection reports.
The schools underwent the same type of inspection that apply to city restaurants. For comparison, seven restaurants were closed for some of the same violations since the beginning of 2016.
“We serve some great food, kids really enjoy the food. [The lunchrooms] are clean, they’re safe. If problems do arise and case to case from time to time, I can assure you we’ll get on them right away to rectify them and the inspection process begins again,” Goldstein said.
On 32 separate visits, health inspectors found rat poison near a refrigerator accessible to kids.
During a visit to P.S. 80 in Staten Island in April 2015 “21 brown/red ants” were seen crawling on cafeteria walls and tables.
Sixty-one schools lacked a thermometer to measure food temperature. Forty-two schools had no soap or cold water for lunchroom staff to wash their hands.
Parents were left in the dark about these inspections until PIX11 News started digging.
Goldstein said the Education Department and city Health Department will work together to make these reports available to parents.