Calling it a breeding ground for COVID-19, staff and students have launched a petition to demand the city close the Martin Luther King High School building in Midtown — site of the infamous toilet-paper test.
Ventilation in the building — where no classrooms have windows — is so bad that teachers bring their own air purifiers to cope with stifling conditions
Rodent and cockroach infestation in the ceilings make it worse, a teacher told The Post: “It gets in the air and makes it hard to breathe.”
“There are no windows and a faulty HVAC system that’s been in place since 1970. It will not prevent the spread of COVID-19 to students and staff in the building,” says the Change.org petition, which had more than 525 signatures Saturday.
“Do the right thing! We are not guinea pigs!” wrote a staffer who signed it.
The building, on Amsterdam Avenue near Lincoln Center and next to famed LaGuardia HS Of Music & Art and Performing Arts, houses six small high schools.
Room 440 was seen in a leaked video last week showing Department of Education workers lifting pieces of toilet paper on sticks to the drop ceiling. Officials called it a common airflow test cited by the CDC. The “tissue test” is being used in walkthroughs of city schools to decide if they’re safe to open on Sept. 10.
Corey Metzger, a school expert on the epidemic task force of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, said the crude test could be useful to quickly identify trouble spots, but only as a first step.
“Certainly, if you’re trying to get accurate measures, there are other tools you would use,” he said.
The DOE said inspectors in Room 440 “determined that the exhaust fan was not operational and it is being fixed,” adding the room would not be used until then.
But staffers contend MLK’s ventilation problems are far more extensive.
Whether the A/C or the heater is on, “air isn’t moving,” a teacher said. In the basement classrooms, students sit near the boilers — “they’re kind of baking.”
“There must be a massive amount of work that must be done to make this building safe during this pandemic,” a staffer wrote on the petition.
“I am signing because I am scared for the safety of myself, my coworkers and students,” another wrote, citing a 2018-19 DOE inspection report that cited multiple “defective” ventilation parts.
“If the flu, and a simple cold spreads like wildfire in our school with no windows, and without the proper ventilation what do you think will happen with Covid even with the masks worn?” another wrote.
DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer did not comment on the MLK petition, but said in a statement, “We pledged that our classrooms will be safe or they will not be used – period. We’ve been doing this work for months, identifying and repairing issues and getting our schools ready to reopen.”