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School Officials Endorse Fire Safety Systems Upgrade at Elementary Schools

Now the Rocky Hill Town Council must decide whether to approve and fund the improvements to the schools' fire prevention systems.

School Officials Endorse Fire Safety Systems Upgrade at Elementary Schools School Officials Endorse Fire Safety Systems Upgrade at Elementary Schools

If the Town Council follows the Board of Education's recommendation, the West Hill and Stevens elementary schools will have their fire prevention systems overhauled and upgraded.

School officials unanimously endorsed a plan Thursday night presented by the town Joint Facilities Committee that includes a revamped fire alarm system, sprinkler installation and removal of dropped ceilings.

The proposal is more limited in their scope than the original changes recommended, which would have cost more than $18 million and required a referendum vote.

The plan will now go to town council members for their consideration.

The predecessor to local Fire Marshal Rich Renstrom told the school board that district schools were "grandfathered in" under older fire safety regulations, even though these were revised in 1999. In 2005, the state updated its building and fire safety codes again, and, in accordance with the changes, Rocky Hill was notified of a list of infractions in its schools that rendered them non-compliant, most glaringly, the absence of elementary school sprinklers.

Details on just what the district had to do to comply with the new regulations were not drafted until 2010, to give the board time to study and assess the requirements, at which time they were incorporated into a comprehensive school improvement plan, which was defeated by voters at a referendum.

In May, Renstrom completed an updated fire safety assessment of the district schools in which he identified 50 violations and again highlighted the lack of sprinkler systems in Stevens and West Hill. Following the release of this report, the Joint Facilities Committee commissioned cost estimates for sprinklers and brought their findings and recommendations before the school board.

Thursday night, school officials resolved to post all materials relevant to the matter on the district website in order to educate the public about the history of the issue. Aside from concern over criticism over the delay in action on the sprinklers, members agreed that they needed to assure elementary school parents who may be worried about their children’s safety.

Accompanying the other documents that the board will post on the site, members will include a statement from Renstrom declaring that West Hill and Stevens can safely open the school year next week.    

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