Some Newton schools not fully compliant with safety regulations

COVINGTON — A state website showing incomplete reporting of fire drills in Newton County schools is not an indication that the fire drills were not conducted, according to the Newton County School System.

All public and private schools in Georgia are required to conduct regular fire drills while in session in accordance with state law. Two fire drills are required to be conducted and reported online within the first 30 days of school opening, with the first fire drill due within the first 10 days of school, according to the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner. Afterwards, fire drills are to be conducted and reported monthly. In addition, during the months of November and February, the State Fire Marshal’s Office requires that severe weather drills be conducted and reported, which can take the place of fire drills during those months.

However, according to data on the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner’s website, several schools in the Newton County School System have not reported the results of fire drills in months and some haven’t reported them in years. This could indicate that either the schools are not performing the drills or that they are performing them but not reporting the drills.

Clements Middle School has failed to report a fire drill for the past five years, according to the site. The school’s last recorded fire drill was in January of 2009, and its most recently documented severe weather drill was in November 2006. Although not required under state law, schools often implement biannual severe weather drills alongside fire drills for further safety purposes.

According to the Newton County School System, Clements and other schools in the system have conducted the drills but have not reported them to the state or they were incorrectly documented on the website.

“We are reviewing this issue with each of the schools that did not complete the fire drill reporting,” said Sherri Davis-Viniard, director of public relations for the school system. “Based upon our initial inquiries with schools, monthly fire drills were conducted, but not all of them were uploaded to the website. Additionally, schools also conduct intruder/lockdown drills regularly. In the case of Clements Middle School, fire drills were conducted and reported on the website under Clements Theme School, not under Clements Middle School.”

The reporting requirement does not include any sanctions for schools that fail to comply.

“The law does not specify any penalties for noncompliance of the code,” said Office of Insurance and Safety Commissioner Media Relations Specialist Glenn Allen.

Davis-Viniard said the school system would continue to work toward full reporting compliance for all schools.

“Regardless of any discrepancies, there is no excuse for not uploading the fire drill reports to the state website in a timely manner,” she said. “The school system will continue refining this process and working with school leaders to ensure 100 percent compliance.”

According to the state website, fire drills were not reported for the following Newton schools for the months listed in 2013:

  • East Newton Elementary – March, April, September
  • Eastside High – May, December
  • Heard-Mixon Elementary — January, March, May, December
  • Indian Creek Middle – January, April, May
  • Liberty Middle — February, April, May, October, December
  • Livingston Elementary – May
  • Mainstay Academy – all months except April
  • Middle Ridge Elementary – April, October, December
  • Newton College and Career Academy – May, December
  • Newton County Theme School at Ficquett – March, October, December
  • Porterdale Elementary – April, December
  • Veterans Memorial Middle – April, September, October
  • Alcovy High – January, April, May, September

Additionally, Eastside High has not reported a severe weather drill since February 2009, while Alcovy High hasn’t done so since January 2012, according to the state site. NCCA has never recorded a severe weather drill since it opened in August of 2012.

“The principal is responsible for having mechanisms in place to conduct and report fire drills,” said Davis-Viniard.

Fairview Elementary, Live Oak Elementary, Oak Hill Elementary and Newton High all have 100 percent compliance ratings with the Fire Commissioner’s Office. Mansfield Elementary is also fully compliant, and has done an additional fire drill to exceed requirements.

For more information and to look up a school’s specific compliance rating, visit http://www.oci.ga.gov/PublicEducation/SchoolFireDrillReport.aspx.