Glocester school board member warns council: Major funding needed for repairs this year

At the recent Glocester Town Council meeting, the PA system at West Glocester Elementary School was reportedly no longer working, but Principal Nancy Zambarano assured NRI NOW that it is functional. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

GLOCESTER – Glocester School Committee member Patricia Henry brought a preliminary warning for the Glocester Town Council at their recent meeting. Town schools, she said, are in dire need of improvements and upgrades, including what she described as a major problem with the public address systems, particularly at West Glocester Elementary School. As a result major capital funds will be needed in next year’s budget to address the problems, along with a five year capital plan.

“I walked away from the school committee capital meeting at the region about a month and a half ago, and I really thought my head was going to explode,” Henry told the council. “I really couldn’t believe the magnitude of this 82 page document of things that needed to be addressed.”

She added that she asked some of the existing members who had been on the committee for years how this happened.

“Where were you?” she asked them. “How did you let this neglect go on for so long? Things weren’t addressed. They’re being addressed now.”

Now, with a new administrative team, Henry said concerns and problems are finally coming to light.

“Their transparency, their open discussion, their honesty, but with that is coming an incredible reality,” she said. “You all know me. I am not an alarmist. It’s a big number.”

Councilor Walter Steere explained that about seven years ago, the Town Council sat down with the School Committee and came up with a five year plan to address issues at the time. The town agreed to provide $300,000 in funds each year for five years in order to help address issues at the school. The school department also set aside funds from their budget for that purpose as well.

“We can’t guarantee that we can come up with that type of money moving forward,” he added.

In regards to the public address systems, both council members and Chief Joseph DelPrete expressed concern about safety issues at the schools. The PA system is used to announce code red warnings and similar safety announcements. Henry said she believed that Fogarty was operational but was in need of upgrades. West Glocester was a different story.

“I think it is West Glocester that’s the biggest problem,” Henry told the council. “It’s really a situation where the PA systems don’t work – to a point where it is not safe.”

Should a lockdown be required, she added, there would be a problem.

“It’s really not just because we want a sound system in the school,” she said. “It’s really about safety and security.”

When West Glocester Elementary principal Nancy Zambarano was later contacted by NRI NOW, she agreed that the PA system was in need of an upgrade, but said that it is functional.

“The statement ‘we don’t have one’ is inaccurate,” she said. “We indeed have an existing PA system at West Glocester Elementary School. The system is original to the building, and it requires an upgrade. There is better technology available, and we are seeking the best option for our Glocester children.”

Councilor Jonathan Burlingame said superintendent Patricia Dubois was scheduled to speak to the council, but was unable to be there. She is expected to be at the next meeting to address capital improvements needed, he said.

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