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Safety concerns have forced the closure of several classrooms at Roseland University Prep high school in Santa Rosa after a fire marshal inspection uncovered a slew of violations in structures that have been used by the school for years.

The violations include: no fire alarms, no phone connections to the main office, door lock issues, noncompliant exits, lack of fire suppressant sprinklers and other issues. In addition, the school district failed to calculate the allowable number of students per space.

The city also cites a failure to create a "clearly discernible" separation between the educational occupancies on both sites and other tenants, which include a vending machine business and an engraving company.

"It did lack all of the protective features that schoolchildren in California are to be provided," said acting Santa Rosa Fire Marshal Mark Pedroia.

In his April 2 report, senior fire inspector Scott Moon recommended "these spaces be vacated without delay."

"Unfortunately, conditions at these sites are so far from compliance with basic California codes regulating school construction, modernization, occupancy and operation; we do not see a solution," the memo reads.

"We are charged with implementing the State requirements for school/student safety and, in our evaluation, are unable to find a route to legitimize these uses, even temporarily, without further jeopardizing the safety of students and teachers," it reads.

The buildings remain closed off to students with signs affixed to doors directing students to the main building on campus.

Roseland School District Superintendent Gail Andrade Ahlas would not directly address how the district came to house scores of kids and teachers for years in rooms that were not up to building, fire or education code safety standards.

"My whole goal and my focus right now is really on looking forward and figuring out how to minimize disruption on campus for the kids," she said. "That is where I am focusing my attention, my energy."

"Of course, their welfare is our top concern," she said.

Opened in 2004, Roseland University Prep is a highly decorated program that requires students who are predominantly poor and Latino to pass the course work necessary to apply to California State University and University of California campuses to earn their high school diploma. Its enrollment has grown to about 430 and the school regularly has a waiting list.

The district is currently shepherding plans for a new campus through state regulations, but it is not expected to be completed for years.

The school had been using a former restaurant supply building on the northwest corner of the 100 Sebastopol Road campus for five years to accommodate its growing enrollment. The building houses the teachers lounge and a number of classrooms.

Four commercial units on the south side of the main building on Timothy Road had been in use for two and a half years and housed a physical education facility and other classes.

In 2012, it was reported that the district leased the restaurant supply store for $2,175 a month from owner Martin Fridley of Santa Rosa. The four units on the south side of the main building are rented from Liliana and Emilio Mangini of San Mateo for $3,200 a month, school officials reported in 2012.

No issues were found in the main warehouse, which is leased from a third owner.

Liliana Mangini called the deal with the district "a temporary arrangement." The lease was up in June, she said.

Senior code enforcement officer Mike Reynolds said he has been working with the owners to get to the bottom of what led to the violations.

"Some uses were in place that weren't approved, permitted or inspected," he said.

"I can't go into any more specifics," he said, adding that the situation "may result in litigation."

Pedroia, who was an inspector on the site when RUP opened 10 years ago, said district leaders should have kept officials apprised when they took over new buildings to accommodate their growth.

"We are not here in a position to beat up Roseland University. It's great that they were successful and so successful that they needed to expand," Pedroia said. "But when you get to this juncture, please involve us. Our contributions are important."

City officials credited Roseland administrators with promptly evacuating the two buildings.

"They recognized they had a serious deficiency," Pedroia said, calling interactions "very up front."

"They didn't hide anything," he said.

The code violations were discovered when a campus custodian called the city to check on a fire report for one of the buildings. No records existed.

"The fire inspector went out to figure it out then made the discovery that children were inside the building," Pedroia said.

Roseland School Board president Janice Siebert said district officials believed that because the buildings had previously been used to house businesses that they were safe for children.

"These were functioning buildings, so there was no reason to think this was an issue," she said. "There was not a red flag for anybody."

"I don't know where the glitch happened until it got inspected," she said.

The school's students are now all housed in the main building — a converted warehouse. The city has approved a large divider that will temporarily change the building's largest gathering space into two classes.

Plans are in place to install three portable classrooms before the start of the 2014-15 school year, Ahlas said. The lease cost is approximately $1,110 a month for all three, she said.

"When the dinner table is full, you scoot your child over and make room for one more family member," she said, crediting the flexibility of teachers.

"It's not ideal, but we are making it work," said teacher Tino Fonzeca.

"It's crazy; there's like students everywhere," said junior Briana Quintana. "We always have to adapt to different things, so it's not anything new for us — so people were like, 'Let's do it.'"

Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, kerry.benefield@press democrat.com or on Twitter @benefield.

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