Workplace Safety, Athletic Fields and Substance-Abuse Policies Discussed at School Board Meeting
Bellingham Memorial Middle School
At the October 11 School Committee meeting, Maintenance Director Roger Oakley reported the results of a state visit in response to a complaint lodged by an employee of Bellingham Memorial School regarding unsafe conditions at the school.
The complaint stated that the school was “an unsafe, dangerous place to work.” Oakley said that on the day the state came to inspect, there happened to be an unattended ladder set up in a hallway with a container of unlabeled liquid nearby.
Oakley further said that the state representative asked to see the policy or procedure on record applying to this incident and that no such policy existed. The state gave Bellingham 20 days to write a policy.
Oakley said he got out his OSHA books from his days in the construction industry and drafted a procedure that was then approved by the state. This procedure mandated that all containers be labeled, with materials listed, and that all custodial personnel be given proper training on all safety policies. All district custodians were required to sign off on the policy.
At the September 27 meeting, Athletic Director Michael Connor and School Committee Chairman Mike Reed had asked the School Committee to set up an exploratory committee to research the conditions, best uses, and costs to repair the athletic fields, and then filled the positions at the October 11 meeting.
Reed had noted that this past spring the varsity baseball field between the high school stadium and the memorial school was in such bad condition it could not be used for games. The Varsity and JV baseball teams were bused to Richardson Field on Harpin Street across from South Elementary for all home games, and the freshman team played all their games away because of a lack of fields.
The back of the baseball field is used for field hockey, leaving a significant ridge in the outfield. The committee would look at site plans for the entire school property, including the fields in the back up the hill to determine the best configuration for all of the fields.
Reed said that the district got a quote of $350,000 to renovate the baseball field. He said that he was surprised by that number and that more research was needed as to whether that repair will solve the problem or be a “band-aid” fix that will need to be redone in 5-10 years.
In addition to a baseball field at the site, a softball field is located toward the back in front of the basketball courts. The committee would study the possibility of renovating both fields to make a complex comparable to other towns’ fields rather than an embarrassment.
He also noted that the softball team has never played on campus; their games have always been at the High Street fields. Historically, there has not been school transportation for athletes to get to remote locations for home games or practices. These athletes have relied upon seniors with cars or parents to drive them to the remote home fields or arenas.
The Committee and ad hoc members will include Athletic Director Michael Connor, Town Administrator Denis Fraine, Finance Committee member Roland Levalee, Selectman Don Martinis, School Committee members Jen Altomonte and Mike Reed, and parents Michael Drons, Paul Jakes, Kerry Farrell and Chad Kelley.
The School Committee also approved updates to the three existing substance-abuse policies. The first prohibits underage students from using any alcohol or tobacco products as well as illegal drugs. The second policy ensures employees of a drug-free workplace. The third defines the profiles of health and welfare curricula for Bellingham students as they pertain to illegal substances, mental health, addictions and bullying.