House Bill 23, which was filed by Rep. Sheila Jones (D-Atlanta) last month, proposes the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in all public and private schools in Georgia as of July 1.
Personnel from both Cobb and Marietta school districts said they are aware of the bill and have begun to run preliminary figures for costs.
Chris Ragsdale, Cobb Schools’ deputy superintendent of maintenance and operations, said the district has been looking into pricing for the detectors since December.
“It’s a preliminary estimation, but we’re looking somewhere around $1,500 per school,” he said.
If at least one is installed at Cobb’s 114 schools, it could cost the district around $171,000.
“That would be a carbon monoxide detector that would be connected to our centralized control/monitoring system,” Ragsdale added. “We would put them in a specific area of the schools.”
The district is hesitant to lock down any pricing or exact locations for the detectors at this time.
“We don’t know what would be in the legislation,” he said.
As far as funding the detectors, Ragsdale said it would have to be “weighed against the entire budget.”
“We put student and staff safety as a top priority but would have to figure out how to fit this into our budget,” he said.
Danny Smith, Marietta City Schools’ director of maintenance and support, had a similar response.
“Obviously, if it’s required, we’ll figure it out, but we are looking at the feasibility,” he said. “The way we’re looking at it now, we may very well bring something back to the board next month. Although you hate to do too much up front because you don’t know what the state rules come back and say.”
Marietta’s estimated cost for installation is around $50,000. That cost would cover the installation of 103 detectors at its 12 school campuses, including the Performance Learning Center at Woods-Wilkins campus. If required by state legislators, Marietta would draw that funding from the district’s building fund.
Like Ragsdale, Smith said the detectors would be more advanced than traditional home carbon monoxide detectors.
“We’re looking right now at maybe they may be able to tie into our fire alarm systems. In other words, once it’s tied into there, the people at the front office can monitor the flashing light or sound if there is a problem,” Smith said.
Smith also said the number of detectors per school would be determined by a number of factors.
“Some of our schools are heated and cooled with electricity, which doesn’t present a problem, but some of our schools that have a boiler system as well as another wing that might have a heat pump, or electricity. That’s the reason there will be some variables in the numbers you have,” he said.
Area private schools are looking into the possible requirement as well.
Dr. David Tilley, the head of school at Mount Paran Christian School in Kennesaw, said, “Anything that will significantly improve the health, safety, and security of our students at Mount Paran Christian School is clearly worth the consideration and investment of time and resources.”
Officials at the school are currently investigating what the cost might be to install what initially has been determined as a need for 20 detectors in every school building and the Murray Arts Center chiller plant.
“Since we have a rather large campus with multiple facilities, I expect the cost would be significant,” he said. “Please allow me to also note that we will conduct this study with or without legislative mandates.”
Kristy Helms, a spokesperson for The Walker School in Marietta, said the school would comply with the requirements if the bill were passed.
“We would research that carefully before proceeding with the installation if the bill is passed,” she said.
Local legislators, who will be returning to session Monday, have differing opinions on whether it should be legislation.
Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) said Tuesday that while he thinks it’d be “nice” to have them in place to protect students, he doesn’t agree with mandating local districts to install them.
“In these days of education funding challenges, this is just not something I’m willing to do,” he said. “The local districts can make that a local decision. I would not be supporting that legislation.”
Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell), who has two children attending Russell Elementary in Smyrna, said he favors of the idea of the bill passing.
“I would talk to the school systems before the vote. I’d be open to it,” he said. “I think even the insurance commissioner would like to see it.”
Wilkerson also said he understands funding could be tough but hopefully districts and schools could look at the state to help with funding.
“If it’s that important, there could be more funds available,” he said. “I believe it would be a one-time investment for the most part.”