By Kimberly Melton, The Oregonian
December 02, 2009, 11:25AM
Portland Public Schools
plans to hire four more staff members to help complete a backlog of school building fire alarm inspections, amid a renewed emphasis on safety after last month's Marysville K-8 School fire. The district posted the job openings online
With those additional inspection crews, district officials say they can complete the remaining inspections by the end of the 2009-10 school year.
The district's schools are supposed to receive an annual internal fire alarm inspection, but after launching a new more rigorous and time-consuming evaluation process in 2008, Portland fell behind
The fire alarms at Marysville were last inspected in April 2008, more than 18 months ago. The alarms functioned properly last month, however, when a fire ravaged the east side of the school and sent smoke through much of the rest.
Portland Public Schools wants to catch up on its fire alarm inspections by the end of this school year, but that requires additional resources, Tony Magliano, the district's facilities director, said last week.
Three two-person teams are already dedicated to doing the inspections, along with a fourth crew that does inspections part time. District officials say the inspections take an average of 10 days at smaller schools and 35 days at larger schools. Without more resources, the annual inspections that began in 2008 wouldn't be complete until November 2010.
The district has inspected 40 school buildings so far and has 64 to go.
The four additional staff members are estimated to cost the district about $309,000 a year. In total, Portland Public Schools will have six crews working on internal fire alarm inspections at an annual cost of about $1 million.
Matt Shelby, district spokesman, said those costs will be built into future budgets, but Portland hasn't yet determined where the money will come from to pay for the additional staff for this school year.
The money could come from Portland's reserves, the facilities' department current budget or other one-time money.
David Wynde, chairman of the school board's finance, audit and operations subcommittee, said the district's facilities and finance staff are working on a proposal to bring to the finance committee and Portland School Board.
"We have a legal obligation to get to every school each year," Wynde said. "As a system, we're taking the necessary steps to comply with that requirement. We'll find the money."
-- Kim Melton