Fire & Life Safety Code Compliance Requirement
Our local fire department is required to conduct an annual inspection of our buildings, certify safety, make recommendations to address code issues, and report the results of their annual inspection to the State Fire Marshall’s office.
Concerns about fire and life safety prompted the School Board to authorize SFC Engineering to do a thorough inspection of our two schools. Their report in June 2009 identified a significant number of issues. Because of the turnover in superintendents and misunderstandings between SFC Engineering and the SAU office, there was no progress in addressing these issues until November 2010.
School districts are expected by state law to address fire and life safety code issues in their schools to ensure that these buildings meet the current state codes. School systems that have not paid attention to this have led to the Fire Marshall closing schools or threatening to do so. Not only is there a responsibility to local and state fire officials, the school district has a responsibility to provide safe facilities for its students and employees. If there are identified needs, they should not be ignored. The Superintendent and local fire officials initiated a plan in December 2010 to address these needs.
Fire & Life Safety - Elementary School
At the Elementary School, the fire alarm system had become outdated. The voters passed a warrant article in 2011 for $79,200 to install a new system. A second warrant article for $470,800 was also approved to install a new sprinkler system. Both of these projects were completed during the 2011-12 school year, but at a much lower cost. The fire alarm system actually cost $8,550 less and the new sprinkler system cost $194,600 less. These surplus funds were used to offset the operating budget for the 2012-13 school year.
The June 2009 report actually called for a number of door and wall replacements to meet fire codes. These renovations would have been expensive, and it is quite possible that a new sprinkler system would have been required in the near future. Installing a sprinkler system eliminated the need to do the reconstruction work and made for a safer building. This system has been sized and installed in a way that it can be incorporated into the future expansion of the Elementary School facility.
Fire & Life Safety - Jr/Sr High School
There are significant fire and life safety issues at the Jr/Sr High School. A warrant article was approved by voters in 2011 in the amount of $200,000 to make a start in correcting these issues. Following that decision, our architects and engineers completed their study of the facility and concluded that the expense to correct all issues was just over $2 million.
Superintendent Hayes worked with our consultants to organize the remaining $1.8 million into suggested three- and five-year plans and submitted these to Newmarket's Fire Chief. After meeting with the State Fire Marshall, the Fire Chief notified the Superintendent and the School Board that it has four years to address the fire & life safety issues at the Jr/Sr High School or face closing the school.
In a letter dated June 29, 2011, Fire Chief Malasky approved a 3-year plan to bring the school in compliance with all current fire & life safety codes. Adding a year for unexpected issues in completing the repairs, the letter stated that “all repairs are expected to be complete or the building abandoned/replaced prior to the start of the 2015-16 school year.” In meeting with the School Board on July 21, 2011, the Fire Chief indicated that state laws require action, and since the District has been aware of these code violations since June 2009, he is compelled to set a deadline. If the District and community take concrete steps to build a new school and construction is underway, then the deadline can be flexible. However, if no such steps are taken, simply saying that we plan to build a school will not be enough to prevent closing the current facility.
Since 2011, the School District has made progress toward full code compliance; however, much work still needs to be done. In March 2012, voters established a capital reserve fund for Construction of a New School Building and Renovation of Existing School Buildings for Fire & Life Safety Code Compliance, commonly referred to as the Dual Purpose Fund. To date, voters have contributed $1,476,177 to that fund. An up-to-date summary of the work completed, the work to be done, and the funding is provided below.
There are more issues with the facility than just fire & life safety code compliance. We will still be maintaining a building in which two major sections are over 90 and 60 years old and which has deteriorating conditions in the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. These systems will continue to degrade and ultimately fail. If we do not find some other solution, we can expect to continue investing significantly more money into an aging facility.
Key Documents webpage contains more information
The Key Documents webpage of our website contains numerous documents that deal with such topics as fire and life safety, facility and program analyses of the current Jr/Sr High School, options for a new or renovated school, and the work and recommendation of the Facilities Committee. If you do not see what you are looking for on this page, please contact Superintendent Jim Hayes.