WOOD RIVER JCT. — Members of the Chariho School Committee approved a new districtwide school security enhancement in a first reading of the proposal Tuesday night. The second discussion and a vote will take place at the committee’s next meeting.
Described as a “visitor management system,” the visitor screening, similar to the one currently in use in the Westerly Public Schools, would involve background checks for all visitors, volunteers and vendors. Visitors would be required to present photo identification at the school entrance. The identification would be entered into the system, which would check a database for offenses.
“A person’s license would be scanned and it would do an immediate check on a national database,” Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci said.
The new system, if it receives final committee approval, would be installed in every building at a cost of $34,560, an amount that is already in the current budget.
Committee members also heard a proposal from Ricci to explore the cost of installing wall-mounted, ductless air conditioning units in all classrooms in the district.
It was so hot when students returned to school after Labor Day that the district was obliged to issue early dismissals. Ricci said heat had become a serious issue, impeding learning and affecting the school staff.
During the recent window upgrade projects at Ashaway and Hope Valley elementary schools, Ricci said he was informed that the Rhode Island Department of Education considered the existing window air conditioning units a fire hazard, and recommended that the district not reinstall them once the windows had been replaced. Both schools are older buildings, with poor air circulation.
“I think we have to deal with the heat issue in all the buildings. Even if there’s not a heat advisory and it’s just very warm, it’s very uncomfortable. This building is incredibly difficult,” he said, referring to the high school.
Ricci said the units themselves would cost a little more than the window units and installation would be more expensive, but he noted that more than half the cost could be covered by state housing aid.
“Because it’s permanently attached to the wall, the state will reimburse us our housing aid number, 61 percent,” he said.
Ricci said he wanted to determine the cost, spread over several years, of wall-mounted air conditioning units for the entire district, and the committee told him to proceed with the inquiry.
“I think you should go ahead,” committee Vice Chair Ryan Callahan said. “I think we should understand what the cost is going to be and scope it out, but I completely agree. We can’t have 90 degree days and expect children to be comfortable.”
The school district’s application for state funding for the redesign of the traffic pattern at the Richmond Elementary School received committee approval and will now be submitted. The project, which is expected to cost $607,000, is already in the current budget, but state housing aid would reimburse the district for at least 61 percent, or $370,270 of that amount.
The redesign would improve the safety of the parent drop-off area in front of the school, which currently shares a space with school bus drop-offs. If the funding is approved, the work would begin next summer.