Saratoga County

Private school blames Clifton Park for not being ready to open

With renovations on their school building on Route 146 in Clifton Park still nowhere near completion
PHOTOGRAPHER:

With renovations on their school building on Route 146 still nowhere near completion, as many as 50 pre-kindergarten through second-grade students from Mother Teresa Academy spent their first day of school today at the principal’s home.

Before the building can open for students, major fire-safety requirements must be met, as well as accessibility for handicapped students and fully operational sewer and water service.

The work has been plagued by permit delays that town building department directors said were caused by incomplete plans submitted all summer by the contractor working on the project.

The private, independent school is in a two-story building once used for a pediatric medical practice. School organizers took over the building on May 23. A building permit posted in the window of the school is dated September 5.

Joyce Maddalone, the school’s director, said the town processed their renovation applications too slowly for any real work to begin over the summer.

“We submitted plans in May, and it took them until June to get back to us; we kept calling and calling,” Maddalone said. “They knew we had a deadline of September to get these children in school, but they didn’t work with us.”

But Steven Myers, director of the town Building Department, said the town reviewed plans as they were submitted and issued letters of deficiency as recently as August 23.

“Because they can’t submit complete plans doesn’t mean we’re holding them up,” Myers said. “Especially where children are concerned, they have to be held accountable to the codes.”

Meanwhile, students spent this morning at the home of the school’s principal, Michelle Emerzian of Clifton Park. Maddalone said the morning was being termed a “play date,” rather than an official school day, in part to avoid non-compliance with other town codes.

State Education Department spokesman Jonathan Burman said the state has no jurisdiction over where Mother Theresa Academy classes are held because it is not a public school. Instead, it’s up to the town to determine safety and legal issues.

“Since they had the kids in a private residence, we could even pull the certificate of occupancy on the house,” Myers said. “We’re consulting with our attorneys. If they’re not conducting school lessons, it might be different.”

Maddalone, the school’s director, said town building inspectors are due to check the building this afternoon for a framing and footing inspection, but Myers said he hasn’t heard from contractors that the site is ready for even a preliminary check.

“We’ve bent over backwards for them,” Myers said.

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