WARWICK, RI — Tuesday classes at Norwood Elementary School were briefly interrupted that morning after officials moved students into the nearby Boys and Girls Club while a smoking heating unit ventilator was shut down and the classroom was ventilated at 7:10 a.m.
Students were back in class by 10:30 a.m., according to Superintendent Phil Thornton. He said the trouble began that morning when the principal and the custodian noticed an electric motor in the heating ventilator in room 402 in the school was smoking.
The two opened windows in the room to air out the space, and a school maintenance team arrived to assess the failed heating system.
Teachers and staff arrived and expressed concern about the air quality in the school, as well as about the fire alarms. Heeding their concerns, Principal John Gannon decided to move students and teachers across the street to the Warwick Boys & Girls Club.
The Warwick Fire Department’s Special Hazards team responded and checked the school, clearing it for the students to return at about 9:50 a.m. Officials also contacted the fire alarm company, which checked the alarm system, finding it in working order.
At 10:41, Gannon brought the students back into the building and classes resumed, according to Thornton’s office. Thornton said only one room was or is currently without heat, room 402. Students normally using room 402 were relocated to the library while the heat in that room is being worked on.
The ventilator in room 402 was repaired yesterday, Thornton said.
Thornton also released a timeline of the events to the public:
We are providing information to clarify some concerns circulating around social media and in the community today regarding an incident that took place at Norwood School this morning. In an effort of transparency and full disclosure, here is the summary of events from a heating units electric motor malfunction that occurred at approximately 7:10 a.m. today.
7:10 a.m. – As part of a routine morning walkthrough, the custodian noticed an electric motor, part of a heating unit ventilator in ** room 402, beginning to emit smoke and an electric odor smell. The unit was immediately turned off and the principal was notified.
7:15 a.m. – The principal and custodian opened windows and doors to clear the air in the room.
A school department maintenance team arrived on the scene and assessed the situation.
As teachers and staff arrived at school, they expressed concern about the air quality and the fire alarm system’s functionality.
After students arrived, the principal – in communication with the central office team – decided in an abundance of caution to evacuate the school and relocate students and staff to the Boys and Girls Club. This required students to cross Norwood Avenue and the principal assisted in shepherding students across the street.
The school department requested the fire department’s hazard team to assess the situation and test the air quality at the school.
Tests were completed and all tests indicated safe air quality throughout building. There are no air quality concerns, according to fire officials.
School officials contacted the fire alarm company and requested an immediate test of the fire alarm system.
At approximately 9:50 a.m. – The fire alarm company conducted a full systems test. All systems are fully operational.
10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. – Students and staff were ushered back to school. School resumed normal operations.
10:41 a.m. –* Principal sent out phone message to all parents notifying them of the situation this morning.
*The principal elected to focus on the safety of students and staff in getting them situated at the Boys and Girls Club prior to making the phone call to all parents. If the situation had been more serious – such as a fire or other issue – a phone call to all parents would have been made at the outset of the event.
**There were concerns raised this morning that Norwood School did not have heat in the building this morning. This is not accurate. We have only one room, room 402, that does not currently have heat. All other rooms have heat. Students in room 402 have been relocated to the library and the heat in that room is being worked on currently.
This is a test