850 students' extra days of summer come to an end Fallston Middle passes safety tests

September 12, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

Fallston Middle students are scheduled to start school tomorrow, two weeks late, because construction of the building was not finished by the Aug. 30 school opening date.

The school, Route 152 at Carrs Mill Road, failed a critical fire safety inspection Aug. 23. That inspection found seven fire safety violations, most due to incomplete construction.

Allen L. Ward, deputy chief fire marshal, said his office was satisfied with tests made late last week of the sprinkler system, fire alarm system and emergency generators that provide lighting and power during a fire. Other fire safety concerns, such as missing ceiling tiles and interior smoke doors, had also been taken care of, Mr. Ward said.

Teachers were allowed into the building Thursday to begin setting up their classrooms, said F. Thomas Pomilla, principal of Fallston Middle School.

Mr. Pomilla said the nine-day delay has been a blessing for teachers. "There had been a real fear among the staff that they would be setting up their classrooms at the same time the students were coming into the school," he said.

Teachers at the 116,000-square-foot-school reported for work Aug. 30, and used the time to conduct staff meetings and to develop team teaching ideas for interdisciplinary classes, Mr. Pomilla said. The teachers held their planning sessions at Fallston High School, adjacent to the middle school. There are 52 staff members at the middle school, including teachers, counselors, assistant principal and other professional staff, he said.

Students will be excused from four of the nine days of school they missed, according to the State Board of Education. Teachers agreed to work during five of their 10 annual days devoted to training or school meetings so that students could make up the remaining time, Mr. Pomilla said. Normally, students are not required to attend school on those "in-service" days.

The gymnasium wing of the building, which includes industrial arts, choir and band rooms, is still under construction and will probably open in October, Mr. Pomilla said.

Students will be able to eat in the cafeteria, but the kitchen will not be usable because the school's water supply won't be tested by tomorrow. Signs will be posted telling students not to drink water from fountains, Mr. Pomilla said.

The school system will provide students with bottled water and bagged lunches for about a week until the kitchen is fully operational.

Mr. Pomilla said the school, which has a 900-student capacity, will open with between 850 and 875 students.

Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann and other elected officials have sharply criticized Triangle General Contractors Inc., the Hanover-based company that is building the $10.9 million school, for failing to have it open on time. The school was to have been completed July 15.

Triangle's contract includes a $1,500-a-day late penalty, which Mrs. Rehrmann said she wants "fully enforced."

But Triangle, through its lawyer, William M. Huddles, said in early September that the delays were the fault of the county government and the school system.

County officials had, for example, promised to "coordinate" with the fire marshal so the school would open on time as long as the classroom and administrative areas were completed, Mr. Huddles said.

These county officials, whom Mr. Huddles did not name, allegedly told Triangle that fire safety systems, such as the sprinkler system, could be incomplete in the gymnasium wing and that the school would still pass the fire marshal's inspection.

George Harrison, the county's spokesman, denied that any such agreement was discussed or even considered.

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