(Karen Wink / American Press)
(Karen Wink / American Press)
Last Modified: Sunday, June 17, 2012 8:54 PM
Concerns about student safety and fire code violations have prevented the Louisiana Fire Marshal’s Office from granting BeauVer Christian Academy occupancy for the past year.
BeauVer Christian Academy in DeRidder is one of the four area schools approved for the state’s voucher program.
Fire marshal records acquired by the American Press say that after inspection in June 2011, the school was not approved for occupancy. The school was officially asked to cease and desist occupancy in January 2012.
However, BeauVer Christian Academy carried out the entire 2011-2012 school year and enrolled about 90 students in grades K-12. The school’s campus is made up of a front office building and a collection of temporary buildings that serve as classrooms.
In the records, the American Press found a letter from Maysia Coker, the former director of the school, to the fire marshal’s office that indicates the school considered changing its primary purpose just over a year ago.
“We would like to reconfigure the floor plans that have been approved by your office as classroom settings to allow for utilization as a group home for under privilege and wayward youth,” Coker wrote in the letter, dated April 27, 2011.
The American Press reached out to Coker, but was told to contact current director Sheral Zeno for all current and future requests.
“At one point we were going to do that (the group home), but shortly after, we decided it was not the best option. We looked into it because it would have worked for some of our students, but then we decided to stay a school,” Zeno said.
“This really has nothing to do with our current school. Our school is on target. It’s all about money for people, and they are jealous that we are the only school in Beauregard that is receiving vouchers.”
Zeno said she was unsure of the exact timeline, but she said the school did not do much, if any, construction on the temporary buildings to make it into a residence before abandoning the project.
However, after BeauVer filed to have a group home, inspectors from the fire marshal’s office began regularly coming to the school to check on construction and current conditions.
The records indicate inspections on five buildings. All five buildings have the same violations listed on each form.
Inspectors visited in June, July and August of 2011 and consistently denied the school occupancy, citing a lack of handrails for the ramps leading into the buildings, unsafe exits, a lack of a fire alarm system and an expired portable fire extinguisher.
On Jan. 18, 2012, the inspector revisited the school and determined it was still being used despite not passing inspection.
The fire marshal issued a cease and desist order of occupancy and Cleco Power Co., the school’s electricity provider, was contacted to disconnect all permanent power to the building.
Coker signed the form that stated she would fulfill all requirements by the marshal’s next visit in February.
In February, the school still had the same code violations. Coker again signed the form saying she would fulfill the requirements by the marshal’s visit in March.
On March 7, the issues were still not addressed.
The inspection form reads: “Please close event due to life safety deficiencies not corrected, amount of deficiencies and level of safety on egress, slope of ramps, no level landings, and handrail construction, and fire alarm system. Occupancy not permitted at this time.”
Coker again signed the form, but BeauVer continued school operations through May despite the order.
Cleco was unable to release information on the school’s current power situation, but when the American Press visited the school, none of the temporary buildings had power.
Zeno did not comment on the fire marshal’s orders to cease and desist occupancy.
BeauVer was approved for 119 voucher positions by the state Department of Education.
The school’s tuition is $350 a month. If the school reaches its target enrollment, it will receive nearly $400,000 from the state.
State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said his department would take a closer look at BeauVer next week.
Code: All educational occupancies shall be provided with a fire alarm system.
BeauVer: No system ever provided at time of any inspection.
Code: Owner shall have a licensed fire alarm contractor submit plans on fire alarm system.
BeauVer: No plans ever submitted.
Code: Owner shall have portable fire extinguisher serviced and properly tagged by a licensed contractor.
BeauVer: The school’s portable fire extinguisher’s annual tag expired in July 2011.
Code: Owner shall provide original stamped plans on site for final inspection.
BeauVer: Only copy provided at time of all inspections.
Code: Owner shall provide handrails on both sides of ramps.
BeauVer: None provided at time of inspections.
Code: Thresholds shall not vary by more than one-half inch from one side to another at main entry door.
BeauVer: All inspections found that there was a difference of one and one-fourth inch.
Code: All means of egress shall be maintained free of impediments to ensure proper use in the event of a fire or emergency.
BeauVer: Inspections found that the exit ramps do not terminate smoothly with the ground surface. There are four-inch steps to the ground from the end of all campus ramps.
Posted By: Liz On: 6/17/2012
Why are they focusing on the Negative and not on the Positive to get the School up to Par for the Kids that need special Attention
Posted By: Vicky On: 6/16/2012
Can we find out what State Superintendent John White has to say about his Louisiana Scholarship approved nonpublic school?