Members of the Neligh-Oakdale Board of Education met in Lincoln last week with representatives of the State Fire Marshal’s office, who clarified that installing fire sprinklers are required to correct fire and safety code violations at the school.
Assistant State Fire Marshal Don Fritz said he and Deputy Marshal Sean Lindgren met with four representatives of the district on Friday. Board members Ryan Koinzan and David Wright, along with community members Cory Furstenau and Ron Gilg, were in attendance.
Fritz said board members requested the meeting be held in Lincoln at the state fire marshal's office.
Neligh-Oakdale received a 16-point correction order for East Ward in May and an eight-point correction order for West Ward in August.
Fritz said the district has several options for correcting the deficiencies from a construction standpoint, some of which include replacing doors, putting in egress windows and rating storage doors. However, Fritz said those construction options do not mean sprinklers are not needed and said “egress windows wouldn’t eliminate the need for sprinklers."
Fritz said many windows in the school - not just the windows located in the basement - do not currently have a means of egress. He also said, "There are certain areas of the building that require to be sprinkled regardless."
Among the examples Fritz cited were several dead-end corridors in the school and multiple classrooms that have neither a door or window to the outside. Fritz said there would be a lot of construction options that would need to be completed should the district attempt to go that route.
“With a sprinkler system, those issues simply go away. They’re not required if the building is sprinkled,” he said. "Just in itself, putting egress windows in all of the classrooms doesn't eliminate the need for the sprinkler system."
Concerning student occupancy in the basement, Fritz said there are different options available for allowance. He cited an Oct. 17 letter to the school district, which asked, “Would the district be able to allow students to return to basement occupancy with a commitment to bi-monthly fire drills, a fire alarm detection and notification system, and egress windows prior to the installation of the sprinkler system?”
Fritz said his office has not changed their stance on student occupancy and the requirements stated above would have to be met.
When asked if students can immediately occupy the basement as things sit within the district, Fritz said, “I would say not without those things being done or an approved plan of correction, which I do not have.”
Fritz also said he granted another extension to the district to submit a plan of correction, which is the second extension to Neligh-Oakdale. The Board of Education now has until April 1 to submit a plan.
“I granted them until April 1 an extension time for the plan of corrections, so the new board would have a chance to meet and obtain bids for whatever options they chose to pursue,” he said.