Tiverton, Rhode Island Seeks Fire Code Waiver For Elementary Schools

TIVERTON, R.I. (AP) -- In an effort to reduce costs, Tiverton school officials are seeking a waiver to the state fire code for its elementary schools.

School officials want to allow the youngest students to continue to use the library, cafeteria, bathrooms and other rooms that are below or above ground level, The Providence Journal reported Monday.

Schools Supt. William Rearick said the school department's business manager and others will argue to the Fire Safety Code Board of Appeal and Review in Providence on Aug. 3. They will argue that the town should not be forced to shoulder the expenses of a temporary fix when a long-term solution is on the table.

A Nov. 2 referendum question asks voters to approve the issue of $30.8 million in bonds for a new elementary school and renovations to other schools.

Without waivers, the district would have to spend money on such things as having food service personnel bring food to first graders in their classrooms. The cafeteria, which is accessible by stairs, would be off limits.

Rearick said that the classroom food service could tally an extra $250,000 to $260,000.

The fire laws, passed in the wake of the deadly Station nightclub blaze in West Warwick last year, require that prekindergarten through first grade classes be in ground-level rooms without stairs in the path to exits.

The Fire Safety Code Board of Appeal and Review grants variances from the rules, and already this year West Warwick school officials have sought relief after discovering that a new elementary school there had art and music classrooms on the second floor.

The board meets every Tuesday and it typically hands down decisions the same day.

Rearick said the architects of the new elementary school plan will go to the hearing to represent the district as well.

As things stand, Rearick said, students exiting Fort Barton School would have to descend five or more steps. The district will ask the state to allow that. Other proposed waivers of the code include continued access to basement-level bathrooms, gym, library, and other rooms in Fort Barton School and basement-level cafeterias in all three elementary schools.

If the state board says no, Rearick said, along with having food service in first-grade classes ``the School Committee, myself and the principals would have to come together to develop a response.''