Bentonville board approves new notification systems for schools

Bentonville School District administration building.

BENTONVILLE -- Most of the School District's buildings will receive upgrades to their emergency notification systems as part of a project the School Board unanimously approved Monday.

The district will spend up to $560,000 on systems that not only notify people in case of fire or smoke detection, but also act as an intercom and a bell schedule and can announce weather emergencies and lockdowns.

Evening Star

Bentonville’s School Board approved spending $1,746,077 to complete the staffing of Evening Star Elementary School, which opens this fall on West Pleasant Grove Road in Rogers. That figure includes salaries and benefits for two administrators, 15.5 licensed staff members and 14 classified staff members for the 2019-20 school year.

Source: Staff Report

The district has a mix of older notification, intercom and bell systems. Officials thought it would be best to upgrade all of the systems so each school is operating on the same technology, said Paul Wallace, director of facilities.

Dunk Fire and Security, a Springdale firm, will do the work in three phases that will start next month and be completed early next year.

Board members, during discussion of the subject Monday and at their previous meeting, asked about the cost and how it fit into the district's budget.

Joe Quinn wondered how much of the project was based on state and fire code requirements and how much was based on district administrators' notions of what is best for the schools.

"It's a little bit of a combination, but I think it's the right thing to do, first of all," Wallace said.

He added he has had to push back at times at Fire Department officials who have pressured the district to upgrade their systems in certain buildings, despite the fact those buildings meet the fire code for the era in which they were built.

"Technically, we don't have to upgrade unless we do a major remodel," Wallace said.

The new systems are supposed to improve the intelligibility of alarms and notifications. There are parts of some buildings where a lockdown notification, for example, can't be heard at all, said Superintendent Debbie Jones.

The district began researching notification systems over a year ago. A system was installed on a trial basis at West High School last fall and some adjustments were made to it in January, Wallace said.

Money for the project will come from the district's building fund. The district is able to afford the project in part because of other projects have come in under budget, said finance director Janet Schwanhausser.

Costs to install the upgraded systems vary by school -- from $6,652 at Sugar Creek Elementary School to $161,429 at Bentonville High School, according to a breakdown provided by the district. Osage Creek Elementary and Creekside Middle schools are in their second year of operation and don't require upgrades.

NW News on 04/16/2019