Student safety first

Written by Administrator
 | Wednesday, 05 February 2014 16:41

Old Cove Street resident Bob Doyle is so worried about the safety of Duxbury children in the new middle and high school that he is hoping to enact change through a citizen’s petition article at the upcoming March annual town meeting.

Doyle’s article, Article 30, will ask voters to raise the height of the railings on the balconies on the second and third floors of the new middle and high school to six feet. In the school’s design, the railings are listed at 3’ 6” high, according to Doyle. Doyle said he first noticed that the railings were too low at least two years ago when he viewed the initial school plans. He really became concerned after seeing architect Dennis Daley’s video mockup of the school’s interior showing the open metal railings on balconies on the second and third floor and on the bridges to the library on the third floor, which is 30 feet from the ground. The school design has a 45-foot high atrium with the open hallways on one side and a solid wall for the gym on the other. “I told him I didn’t think it was safe,” Doyle said of the railing height. “I’m worried about kids going over or objects going over.”

Both the second and third floors have two types of barriers: one is an open metal railing and other is a solid wall. Both are at the same height – 3’6” from the floor to the top. Doyle is concerned about both. He said the solid wall measures six inches wide at the top – wide enough for objects to be placed on top and knocked off, either accidentally or on purpose. Also, Doyle said the open railings have enough space between them for students to get their feet between the bars and stand on the bottom, bringing them up six inches higher above the railings.Doyle said that after talking to the architects and raising his concerns many times at school building committee meetings, he was told that the railing heights would be raised to 48” from the minimum code of 3’ 6”. But that didn’t happen. So Doyle decided to take action and submit an article to town meeting that outlines the issue. “What I’m doing comes down to one thing – safety,” he said. Article 30 calls for redesigning or retrofitting the current railing design or supplementing the railing with structural glass, plastic, aluminum rods or other material to bring them up to six feet high. The article states that the purpose is “to prevent students from falling or objects being dropped over the railings from the second and third floor corridors and balconies overlooking the entrance ways and the two third-story walkways that bridge the three-floor atrium.” The article also states that unless this change is completed an occupancy permit might not be issued for the new schools.

Doyle said he has made several calculations showing students at varying heights in relation to the height of the railings. None of these measurements have convinced him that the current railing heights are safe, especially when children are carrying heavy backpacks.

“There’s 1,700 kids in that school and they’re all different,” said Doyle. “My granddaughter is a junior and she’s only 100 lbs. but her backpack weighs 35 lbs.” In contrast to the railing height at the new schools, the new Plymouth county court house has railing heights of 50 inches, said Doyle. The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously last week not to support Doyle’s article, saying that retrofitting the railings, which have already been installed would be far too costly.

This argument goes nowhere with Doyle.

“The thing that bothers me the most is that they are talking dollars,” he said. “I can’t talk dollars – no way. I don’t care about the money. They have the money. The money is there. The money is immaterial. I’m talking about safety.”

Doyle said no one can actually know much the retrofitting would cost because it would need to be estimated and that hasn’t been done.

Doyle feels a broader audience should be aware of this issue. “The only reason I’m taking this to the town meeting is to let the people who have kids in the school make a decision,” Doyle said. “I thought they should have a chance.”

Selectmen plan to discuss Doyle’s article at their February 10 meeting.