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Nassau County Schools Face Safety Issues

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  • Nassau County Schools Face Safety Issues

    Nassau school stage still shuttered

    From Times-Union staff

    FERNANDINA BEACH -- The 500-capacity Fernandina Beach Middle School auditorium will have to sit unused when the school reopens Friday until it can meet fire codes.

    Jeff Bunch, the city's fire marshal, said yesterday he found 37 violations at the school in February, 10 of them in the auditorium. Six of those met the serious life safety hazard criteria and ranged from blocked hose cabinets to improper sprinkler coverage, he said.

    It was the fire marshal's first inspection of the school after a new state law gave the power to inspect and shut down schools for fire code violations. While fire marshals previously were responsible for inspecting schools, they couldn't force school systems to correct problems.

    So far, 17 of the violations remain, Bunch said.

    But Superintendent John Ruis told School Board members it would cost more than the district can afford to bring the 2,000-square-foot auditorium into compliance. Ruis didn't have cost estimates available at the meeting and couldn't be reached yesterday for comment.

    Some had suggested cutting in half the portion of the stage that was used, but that possibility drew criticism from community arts leaders. The auditorium is used by the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Bean's School of Dance, the Les DeMerle Amelia Island Jazz Festival and other schools in the district. The school system also uses it for plays and band and chorus performances.

    Cutting the size of the stage would hurt those activities, Fernandina Beach Middle School drama teacher Judy Tipton said.

    "It would be the desecration of a beautiful theater," Tipton said.

    One violation included fire alarm systems that didn't have working horn strokes, or any audio or visual alert.

    Bunch said if the alarm system is fixed, the auditorium minus the stage can be used.

    Staff writers Cynthia L. Garza and Alison Trinidad contributed material for this report.
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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