Caldwell High Alarm Systems Under Fire

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Concerned Caldwell residents spoke out at a school board meeting, saying the school district didn't do enough to protect children and their school. Three months after a fire at the high school, many are still hot under the collar.

Chuck Anderson left Caldwell ISD a day before fire gutted parts of the high school. The former maintenance worker said he continually told the district that fire systems weren't working. He saw no action being taken.

"I left my position for that reason," he said, "because they hadn't done anything to repair the alarm system in the high school, a lot of safety issues."

Monday, some concerned parents echoed those concerns in the aftermath of the fire at the school board's meeting.

"If we hadn't had a softball game that night, no one would have reported the fire and we would have had a much greater loss," said Lanny Pipkin, one of the concerned speakers.

Ginger Braly read from a letter sent to the school district dated about two months before the high school fire, expressing concern that the system was disabled. It was a letter, she said, that never got a response.

Though no one was inside that night, she points to the potential for a school-day fire that could have injured or killed, also mentioning the lack of fire drills students went through.

"They need to be more proactive instead of reactive," Braly said. "They need to, as our school administrators, faculty and staff, all show as much concern for the students as parents."

"It was a comedy of errors," said Director of Operations Bill Broaddus in an update to the school board. "We started working on this project really heavy after the first of the year and it's taken this long to get to the conclusion."

Administrators say it's a problem they've known about and tried to remedy, but an aging system has prevented it from being fully fixed.

"To our knowledge, we thought it was operational," said Superintendent Randall Berryhill. "Then we'd find something else that wasn't done, and then they notified Bill (Broaddus) of some things that needed to be done."

Berryhill says the system is up and running at this point, and that all campuses will be conducting the appropriate amount of fire drills in the future. He said only one of the four campus had the state-mandated number of drills.

The alarm system at the high school is only internal, meaning even if the system was up and running at the time of the fire, authorities would not have been informed except by eye-witnesses.