After combined effort, city agencies say health violations at pre-K sites are down

The city announced on Friday that it had dramatically reduced the number of pre-K sites with open health and safety violations, after increasing site visits and working with providers to address issues on an expedited schedule.

During the summer, the city deployed health inspectors and scheduled visits from the Department of Education to “literally every program site,” said Deputy Mayor Richard Buery. Next week, the Fire Department will conduct a last round of walk-throughs.

On a call with reporters, city officials from the departments of education and health said they had  reduced the number of sites with violations to a total of 95 as of Aug. 19. Eleven hundred sites will be providing pre-K next year as the city’s universal pre-K expansion plan kicks off.

Twelve of the remaining 95 sites had violations that were categorized as public health hazards, which require attention within 24 hours and 28 sites had critical-level violations, which require attention within two weeks. The remaining 55 sites’ violations don’t pose safety or health dangers.

“No site will be open for pre-K unless all violations have been corrected or mitigated,” said Dr. Mary Bassett, commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

However, plenty of pre-K sites have operated in the past with open health violations, including some sites that had accumulated dozens over time.

Over 1,000 of the sites that operated pre-K and day care programs had racked up a total of 39,000 violations in a five-year period starting in 2009, the New York Daily News reported. The violations included blocked exits, left-out food, and a failure to run criminal background checks on staff.

Because inspections are ongoing, it’s unclear how many programs might be barred from opening on Sept. 4.