Council approves nearly $400K in safety upgrades for Burrillville schools

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BURRILLVILLE – State funding has been made available to address safety concerns at schools across Rhode Island in light of recent violence at education facilities nationwide, and Burrillville officials plan to seize the opportunity, with spending of nearly $400,000 on security upgrades for town schools.

Gov. Dan McKee announced late in May that districts in Rhode Island would be eligible for up to $500,000 in reimbursements, and that every school leader in the state should conduct a walkthrough of facilities and complete a comprehensive survey of potential emergency hazards.

The news came in reaction to tragedies such as the shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children and two adults were killed on Tuesday, May 24.

This week, Burrillville Supt. Michael Sollitto said district officials completed the walkthrough and identified safety concerns with the help of local law enforcement and other first responders, along with the Department of Public Works.

“We did identify a few things that are concerning,” Sollitto told councilors at a meeting on Wednesday, July 20 where he presented a list of items for possible improvement. “All of our buildings are safe. Everything’s in working order. These upgrades would just add to that.”

“I would be hesitant to get into detail about what those things are in a public meeting for obvious reasons,” he added.

Sollitto requested $72,565 for security upgrades to address immediate concerns at the middle school, and both Callahan and Steere Farm Elementary schools. An additional $325,000 was requested to replace analog cameras with digital ones across the district.

“All of our cameras would be state of the art,” he said.

Sollitto did offer councilors a second, more affordable option of replacing only the cameras in need of repair for $70,000.

“It would be a much cheaper option, but the analog cameras eventually would have to be replaced,” he said.

Councilor Dennis Anderson made a case for the more comprehensive plan.

“To repair those cameras, that’s money you’re throwing away when there’s a bigger number that you’re going to have to spend anyway,” Anderson said. “In the environment we’re in now, I don’t think anyone on the council wants to be seen as not supporting school safety of the highest level possible in this town.”

“Let’s do it right now,” Anderson added.

Councilors unanimously approved the spending.

Sollitto said that once approved, the funds will be eligible for roughly 51.5 percent “fast track” reimbursement from the Rhode Island Department of Education, with payments expected in September and March.

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