- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 15, 2003

D.C. schools corrected hundreds of fire-code violations in 2002 and brought the school system into full compliance for the first time in years, according to fire department documents, and D.C. fire and school officials.
"Everything was taken care of. Everything was fixed," said Sgt. Joseph White, who oversees school inspections for the city fire department. The schools, he said yesterday, "have gotten the concept down and are staying on it."
Last year, fire inspectors cited the school system for about 1,500 violations in 144 schools, Sgt. White said. Typical violations include blocked exits, storage placed on the floor and unserviced fire extinguishers. No fines were levied for the infractions.
In 2001, D.C. fire officials cited public schools for 2,165 fire-code violations, according to internal school documents. All but 24 were remedied, school officials said then. Three outstanding violations were found after two fires started at Dunbar Senior High School on New Jersey Avenue NW.
The fire department will reinspect the schools beginning in May 2003.
"We take compliance with the fire code as a very serious matter," said Sarah Woodhead, deputy director of planning, design and construction for the school system who oversees facilities and maintenance departments. "We are diligent about maintaining the buildings and fix any violations."
Fire-code violations have long plagued District schools.
In 1994, a school advocacy group, Parents United for D.C. Schools, filed a lawsuit about fire-code violations in buildings across the city. Some schools opened three days late that year because 47 schools did not pass fire inspections. Thousands of students had to attend classes at other schools for a week.
In 1996, a D.C. Superior Court judge ordered D.C. kept schools closed for a month while buildings were brought into compliance with fire codes.

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