School officials were at the City Council's Finance Committee subcommittee last night and said the bond is vitally important because of a rash of fire code violations in the school buildings.
"Parents, students and educators deserve 100% surety that their schools are safe, clean and nurturing learning environments,” said Andrea Iannazzi, chair of the Cranston School Committee. “We believe our schools to be safe, and know that our students and educators are well equipped to handle emergency situations. That said, it was not welcomed news that many of our schools have fallen out of compliance with fire codes, nor is the manner in which we were informed.”
If approved, construction would begin in 2016. $4 million of the $15 million would go to make sure each school meets fire codes. The rest would focus on repairs and renovations of the schools, which if you ask any student or teacher, is long overdue.
School buildings across the city are aging. Roofs are leaking. Windows won't open or close. Some teachers have had to develop creative ways to keep the climate in their classrooms comfortable.
Saccoccio & Associates conducted a full review of the “health and safety” needs at each school building in the city, in order to meet Rhode Island Department of Education standards for school construction aid reimbursement. If approved by RIDE and the Rhode Island General Assembly, 52% of the $15 million bond proceeds will be reimbursed to the City of Cranston by the State of Rhode Island.
In the course of the architect’s review a number of health and safety needs were identified at city schools, including – but not limited to - significant fire code violations. The violations range in severity, but none put students or educators in immediate danger. While the Cranston Fire Department inspects and certifies each school, each year, the school committee and central administration was not made aware that significant violations existed until the architect’s review was complete earlier this month, which included findings that variances had expired dating back to 2006.
“This matter must be addressed and we will work to ensure that the bond proposal will in fact solve the challenges we face with fire code compliance,” said Michael Traficante, Cranston School Committee member. “But we must also determine how this occurred. Why is it that we did not know, until recently, that these challenges were present? In cooperation with the Cranston Public School Department and Superintendent Lundsten, we believe a full review of this matter is warranted.”
“I am a grandmother of five, and I can confidently say that I so strongly believe in the integrity and safety of our school buildings that I would send each of my grandchildren to a Cranston Public School,” said Superintendent Lundsten. “That said, the fire code violations that Saccoccio & Associates have uncovered are unacceptable and must be remediated as soon as possible. I am committed to partnering with the Cranston School Committee, Cranston Fire department and the mayor’s office to ensure this matter is reviewed thoroughly.”