Last week we detailed the issues with the new Charles M. Sumner Learning Campus and the potential delays in starting the school year in the new building. Since that time Superintendent Michael Eastman and his leadership team has been working diligently to develop solutions.

At the Tuesday night, August 2nd School Board Meeting Superintendent Eastman addressed the board and read a statement.

That statement and the letter to Superintendent Eastman sent out to parents and guardians on Wednesday, August 3rd is below.

Dear Parent/Guardians,
The purpose of this letter is to provide an update regarding the building project for the new Charles M. Sumner Learning Campus.  At the Regional School Unit #24 Board of Directors meeting last night, I read the following statement:

“As many of you know, RSU 24 learned that the Long Pond Water District is currently unable to provide a sufficient water flow rate to meet standards (600 gallons per minute for 60 minutes) for the Charles M. Sumner Learning Campus fire suppression system.  Since this information came to the RSU’s attention, we have been very active in talking with all those involved to promptly address this issue.  Our efforts to understand this issue and to find a safe way to address it have included multiple conversations with our general contractor, Nickerson & O’Day; the school architect, CHA; representatives of the State Fire Marshal’s Office; the architect and school construction coordinator for the Maine Dept of Education; the Sullivan Fire Chief; and representatives of the Long Pond Water District.  I have also been working with legal counsel to help us find a solution to the issue that has arisen.

In fact, today (8/2/22), I participated in a lengthy discussion with the State Fire Marshal’s representatives about the best course of action, given the situation in which we now find ourselves.  We are continuing to work with all involved to address the challenges posed by these solutions to ensure that the safest possible school environment is provided to our students, teachers, staff, and administrators.  The State Fire Marshal’s office has confirmed that state law permits the occupancy of a newly constructed building as long as there is an approved plan of correction, and no serious life safety hazard exists as judged by the authority having jurisdiction.  Our architect has been working with an engineering firm to develop a plan of correction.

The State Fire Marshal’s representatives told us today that they believe the new school is safer for our students, faculty and staff than the current school, even with the water flow issue that has recently become known to us.  This is because the water flow rate is not unique to the new school, but rather is system-wide; thus, the current school also has a low water flow rate.  Moreover, the new school has a number of safety features that the current school does not have, including:

1) The new building is contiguous, and students do not need to go outside to reach classrooms.
2) The new building is divided into two parts by a two-hour fire wall which prevents the spread of fire within the building.
3) The new building provides safe egress in fire emergencies through properly located and sized doors and corridors, non-combustible finishes, one-hour fire rated stairs, and no dead-end corridors.
4) There is a state-of-the-art fire alarm system with communication enhancements.
5) There is a state-of-the-art security system with extra cameras and the ability to lock down areas of the building.
6) Fire sealants are being reviewed and certified by an independent third party.
7) Fire Extinguishers are within 75’ at any point in the building.
8) The new building has enhanced safety features including a lock-down entry vestibule, minimized and controlled access points, corridor lockdown points, and classroom concealment areas.
9) The new building meets required accessibility standards.
10) The new building meets DoE safety and security standards.
11) The new class rooms are properly ventilated and air conditioned.

Rest assured that safety of all those who will occupy the school is our top priority and we are working hard to craft a solution to ensure the safest possible environment.  Moreover, we believe that all of those with whom we have been dealing share that goal.  The State Fire Marshal’s office has offered some suggestions to minimize the risk of fire, including a delay in welding and woodworking classes, additional fire safety training for teachers and other staff, and avoidance of mass gatherings in the school until the permanent solution is in place.  We will continue to work with all of those who can help us problem solve, with a goal toward opening the new school in September.”

The next couple of weeks will no doubt be filled with ups and downs.  We ask for your patience and understanding as we try to navigate the path towards the start of the new school year.  As always, please contact me (meastman@rsu24.org) with any questions
Sincerely,

Michael Eastman, Superintendent

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