Westerly schools submit state grant application for new phone system, security improvements

Westerly schools submit state grant application for new phone system, security improvements

WESTERLY — The Westerly School Department could stand to receive up to $500,000 in state money dedicated toward safety and security improvements at the schools. 

The money would come from the Rhode Island Department of Education and is intended for projects that can be completed in a short time, Finance Director Barbara Perino said. 

Also eligible for the work is the “building envelope”: doors, windows, and heating and cooling systems, Perino said. 

The state money comes from $10.1 million set aside for municipalities by Gov. Gina Raimondo for school safety and high priority repairs.

“This is a $10 million allotment of money for capital coming from the governor with a relatively short turnaround time,” Superintendent of Schools Mark Garceau said. “It’s really geared toward safety enhancements.”

The applications were due to the state on Wednesday.

School officials have prioritized the work they’d like to accomplish.

The first is a new telephone and public address system for the entire school district for $200,000.

The new phone system would have the ability to trace the location of a 911 call to a specific room.

“Right now, if we have any teachers or staff that call 911, the number comes up as our main trunk line, which is 315-1500,” Perino said. “There’s no identification associated with that 911 call.”

The public address component would allow for building-to-building and room-by-room communication. 

Item No. 2 on the priority list is an emergency shut-off valve for utilities at the middle and high schools at a cost of about $194,000.

The last item is $28,000 in security-related work, including a film for glass windows and doors to harden them by making them shatter-proof, Perino said.

Also in the final item are bollards — or short concrete barriers designed to prevent vehicles from driving onto the high school green — and additional panic buttons for the schools. When pressed, the buttons would  issue a silent alarm to police. 

The school department has $28,000 available for the security upgrades, Perino said. 

If the state approves the town’s grant application, the district would be required to put aside 65 percent of the awarded amount in a capital reserve fund, Perino said. The schools would be eligible for 35 percent reimbursement from the state. 

The School Committee gave Perino permission to apply for the grant funds last week. 

If the money is approved, she will return to the committee to propose how the schools should allocate the matching funds. She suggested that surplus funds could be used, or money that’s already set aside for capital improvements such as roof repairs.

The work would need to be completed by December 2019, Perino said. 



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