Winters Elementary School delay caused by fire alarm’s backup battery ‘malfunction’

PAWTUCKET R.I. (WLNE) — After the first week of school was canceled due to health and safety concerns, the Winters elementary community was told why their new building was not up to code.

“What was clearly laid out by our construction partners, Gilbane and Colliers, were the facts,” said Gerard Charbonneau, chairman of the Facilities Subcommittee of Pawtucket. “A battery back up for the fire alarm failed a sixty-hour charge test.”

At an emergency school committee meeting Wednesday, the construction company representatives and the chairman spoke explained their struggles and causes for shutting delaying the first week of school.

Charbonneau continued, “It was still active up until last week, and the dust in the air can throw off the test. So, some of the rooftop units have dust covering. It impedes the air circulation on the charging battery.”

Most of the committee members expressed their sadness and disappointment for the school’s families.

Mayor Donald Grebien explained to ABC 6 News, “Parents are now frustrated, and rightfully so, concerned like we are, and going, ‘I’m getting up this morning with no plan for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. What do I do? That’s the challenge.”

Charbonneau said his team offered to have a fire watch and a backup generator at the school to start on time.

He concluded, “I think it is important to recognize that in the event of a power failure, we’re dismissing the children from school. So all of those options were discussed. I asked our experts if those were feasible and reasonable options. We all agreed they were. They were brought to the city, and they were rejected.”

The school is set to conduct a second test of the battery this Saturday.

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