School locking system not in place, Committee unhappy

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 7:00pm

Members of the School Committee expressed their frustration over the fact that a “priority project” to install a classroom lock system still had not been completed months after the problem had been identified.

When Supt. Michael Convery referenced an item on the agenda that stated town Facilities Manager Sam Bird was “continuing to work on the bid documents” for the installation, Committee member Jessica Willi asked what the holdup was. The school has been looking into a locking mechanism for all the classroom doors inside the school.

“This is our number one priority. What is it they need to do? This is totally unacceptable. I’m flabbergasted. This was project number one,” said Willi.

“I feel the same way,” said member Elizabeth Connor.

“I’m pissed,” said Willi.

“I’ve been dealing weekly with Mr. Bird,” said Convery. Members agreed that they wanted to now speak with Town Manager Ed Roberge.

“It’s been months and months and months,” said Connor.

“It’s been years,” said Chair Bill Padien.

Roberge said he had spoken to Bird and that there was a plan now in place to address the issue.

The discussion about the locks on the doors came after a sobering discussion regarding school procedure if there was ever an armed intruder in the building. Convery said the school was looking at what he termed “option-based results” in the case of an armed shooter. He said they were reviewing materials regarding what to do, saying there “is some disturbing information, but it is not an option” to ignore it. He said that each grade level will be advised, using “age-appropriate” language that is designed to not create anxiety among the students, particularly in the younger grades.

When Connor asked what would be said over the loudspeaker in case of an armed shooter, Convery said that the location of the intruder would be identified, and what the person was wearing would be described. Connor said that that language would be heard by all grades throughout the school.

On a more positive note, Convery said that at a recent Prepare RI Summit — a conference he described as “a state initiative with the goal of preparing all Rhode Islanders with the skills they need to be in the current and future workforce” — included the possibility of linking students with careers associated with the Block Island Wind Farm.

With more offshore wind projects slated for Rhode Island and New York, there will be more than 70 employers looking for skilled labor in such industries as engineering, transportation, undersea welding, helicopter piloting, and government regulations. If a Block Island student earns certification from the Rhode Island Department of Education in one of these industries while in school, that could be used for an advanced college credit.

Convery called the possibilities “exciting,” but also said the program was very much in an exploratory stage.

Saying thanks

At the beginning of the meeting, members Elizabeth Connor and Pat Doyle were surprised with two bouquets of flowers each from Chair Bill Padien and Supt. Convery.

Both Connor and Doyle are stepping down from the Committee; Doyle and Connor both joined the committee in 2010.

“I’ve had a fantastic time with the board. The leadership is phenomenal. I’ve learned from every one of you,” said Doyle. “You always put the kids first. We don’t always agree, but it’s always a discussion.”

“It’s been a joy and a pleasure,” said Connor.

“Thank you for your hard work in the interests of the kids and the community,” said Padien. “You’ll both be missed, but it doesn’t mean I won’t call you.”