School board approves upgrades for Central fire alarm system
CHAMPAIGN — While a new Central High School is still on the drawing board, Unit 4 officials want to ensure students attending the creaky old building are safe.
Monday night, the Champaign school board took a step in that direction, voting 7-0 to approve upgrade work for fire alarms at the high school.
Matt Foster, executive director of business services for the district, said the existing fire-alarm system was installed in 1945, when many of the parents of today’s Central students had not yet been born.
While the school has added on to the system — in the 1950s, 1998 and 2012 — the administration believes it is important to have new equipment to protect students from possible fires in the aging building.
“Right now, we have at least three different fire systems that are trying to work together at Central,” Foster said.
School officials estimate the project will cost $330,000 to complete. Unit 4 will apply for up to $50,000 in aid from the state’s School Maintenance Grant program, which provides matching grants for maintenance or upkeep of structures for educational purposes.
“It will be a fully addressable system with all-new wiring,” Foster said. “Right now, the system uses the old wiring.”
In the event of a fire, Foster said, the new system will provide immediate information about the location — both to school administrators and the fire department.
“When an alarm goes off, we’ll know exactly where there is a problem,” he said. “It won’t just say ‘east wing.’ It will say ‘Room 22.’ We will know exactly what alarm is going off and where it is going off.”
Even though the district is applying for the grant now, Foster said the new system probably won’t be installed until some time between July 2014 and June 2016.
“We have up to two years to use the grant,” he said.
In other business Monday, the board voted 7-0 to appoint Michael Lehr as the district’s director of secondary teaching and learning.
Lehr currently works as an instructional coordinator and coach for Urbana schools.
He previously taught English at Urbana High for 17 years.
“I look forward to learning about all the great things happening in Unit 4,” Lehr said.
He will begin his duties with Champaign schools July 1.