If Stonington school isn't able to open, then what? Town considers options

Stonington - The school system is determining what to do with the 138 students who attend West Broad Street School in case the 111-year-old school cannot open in time this fall due to repairs needed to its sprinkler system.

A recent test of the system found that not enough water is flowing through the 58-year-old system.

During Wednesday night's Board of Finance meeting, Acting Superintendent of Schools Paul Smotas said double sessions at West Vine Street School and delaying the opening of schools are two of the contingency plans being discussed.

"The bottom line is, we cannot reopen the building until the sprinkler system is fixed," he said.

Although quarterly tests of the system done by a private firm had not shown any problems or deficiencies, a different type of test suggested by Pawcatuck Fire Marshal Kevin Burns on June 26 found the water-flow issue.

Since then, the school system has been determining the scope of the work that is needed and obtaining cost estimates.

On Wednesday, the state fire marshal's office inspected the school, confirmed the findings and found that sprinklers are also needed in the stairwells. Repairs could cost as much as $100,000.

Because voters would need to approve the additional funding at a town meeting, work could be delayed several weeks until the meeting can be set, advertised and held.

In an effort to get the work started as soon as possible, school officials agreed Wednesday night to pay for the work out of the school budget until voters approve the additional appropriation.

If residents reject the request at a town meeting, the school board would have to come up with the money in a budget in which it has already made $300,000 in cuts, some of them controversial, following the defeat of the first referendum.

The board approved a bid waiver requested by the school board for most of the work so it could get started immediately.

Finance board members said they supported the work because it is needed to ensure the safety of students. Chairman Glenn Frishman said he was sure it would be approved at a town meeting.


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