Fire alarm malfunction at school irks parents Havre de Grace High did not tell them, they say

October 17, 1997|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Upset that the fire alarm system at Havre de Grace High School has been broken for at least 10 days, some parents are questioning why they were not formally notified about the malfunction.

The malfunction became public at Monday's school board meeting, where a parent raised questions about the situation, prompting an inspection by the state fire marshal's office Tuesday.

Since learning of the breakdown during a routine fire drill Oct. 6, school officials have been keeping the school's fire doors closed and having employees roam the building to check for fires.

The sprinkler system has been checked and determined to be in working order, and the principal has been given a bullhorn to use in case an emergency causes the public address system to fail.

The deputy fire marshal has reviewed the temporary system and judged it adequate, said Donald R. Morrison, the school system spokesman.

But some parents say the safeguards are not enough to protect the school's almost 670 students, and they question why school officials neglected to inform them.

"I want to know that my child is safe when she goes to school," said Paula Baranowski, whose 16-year-old daughter, Alison, is a junior at the school. "I learned about this from my daughter coming home and telling me, and all I'm asking is that parents be informed about what is happening."

Pat White, president of the school's Parent-Teacher-Student Association, said she believes parents should be informed about such issues.

"In the long term, we need to make sure our other fire alarm systems in other buildings do not have the same problem," said White.

Harford County school Superintendent Jeffery N. Grotsky said yesterday that because a fire safety plan was in place, he saw no need to notify parents.

"I think it would have caused undue concern because we had the problem covered," Grotsky said. "We never felt, and still don't feel, that any of the students were in danger."

Grotsky said all county schools conduct fire drills at least 10 times a year and that fire alarms are tested at that time.

In drills conducted using the public address system since the alarm broke down, students and staff have made it out of the building within three minutes, Morrison said.

Officials said yesterday the system is being worked on and might be fixed as early as today. But parent Gwen Ryan said she remains worried about the breakdown in communication between the school system and parents.

"I don't like the runaround and I don't like not getting answers," Ryan said.

Meanwhile, Joppatowne High School remains closed after an electrical fire was discovered there Oct. 1. Joppatowne students have been attending classes at Magnolia Middle School.

Pub Date: 10/17/97

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