Dallas charter school violating code, not cleared to open

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on September 4, 2013 at 2:01 AM

DALLAS — The Harmony Academy of Nature and Athletics was supposed to open August 21, but it has still not passed inspection. Students began classes Tuesday — eight days late — at other campuses operated by the Harmony charter school system.

The code violations found at Harmony Academy of Nature and Athletics on Camp Wisdom Road were "too numerous to list," according to the City of Dallas, but fire hazards and non-drinkable water topped the list.

The city has yet to sign off on a certificate of occupancy, which would permit instruction to begin in the newly-expanded campus, where construction continues.

The city says fire code violations have been fixed, but the water is not yet safe to drink. It's not even safe for hand-washing, according to the City of Dallas.

"I feel like I've been let down," said Irra Joshua, the mother of a fifth grade student. "Things like this you know ahead of time. You have plenty of time to take care of the matter, and to wait until the last minute right before school starts... it's a bit disappointing."

The campus expansion was supposed to be complete in time for classes to begin August 21, but that deadline was not met.

The city conducted a number of inspections at the site and said Harmony received multiple warnings that the school would be unable to open without serious repairs.

The water issue is considered a "life safety issue", and until it is fixed, the building is not considered safe.

The charter school won't say who's to blame for the situation.

"Honestly I'm not really in any kind of position to speculate that," said Julie Norton, a spokeswoman for Harmony Public Schools, which is based in Houston. "We had situations that came up we weren't necessarily anticipating. The last thing we'd want is to start school late. The most important thing for us is educating our students."

The 2013 school year started eight days late, with charter buses taking 750 students to other Harmony campuses across Dallas and Fort Worth.

"They're losing out on instruction time," Joshua said.

While Norton said she anticipated the water situation to be addressed "quickly," she would not give a specific timeline for repairs.

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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