Sweetwater Union High School District makes fire alarm upgrades

Team 10 uncovered plans approved for 5 years

SAN DIEGO - Team 10 uncovered that fire alarms in the Sweetwater Union High School District have not been upgraded even though plans were approved five years ago. The district is now going through with those upgrades and community members want to know what took so long.

Parent Maty Adato told Team 10 she was horrified to hear our report that the fire alarms in the Sweetwater Union High School District had not been upgraded.

Documents show the work had been approved for five years but the district kept asking for extensions.

"God forbid a fire breaks out in one of these schools. What are we going to do?" asked Adato.

The issue was raised Wednesday at the Sweetwater Citizens' Bond Oversight Committee.

"We basically tell the taxpayers how well their money is being spent," said Adato.

Team 10 found documents showing Sweetwater Union High School needs alarm system upgrades for the music building, practice gym and the girls P.E. building for a cost of $1 million but the high school football and track and field teams are being upgraded for $2.3 million.

Adato said Apple iPads for students should be added to the list of items being purchased over the upgrades.

"Fire alarms are a lot more important than iPads and in the last two years, we spent $8 million on iPads," said Adato.

Committee members had questions about why the upgrades had not been done and how the district prioritizes projects.

All questions were directed to the district's chief facilities executive, Tom Calhoun. He attends all the meetings on behalf of the board.

"We are in compliance but we are not upgraded," said Calhoun.

Calhoun said the district decides which projects are a priority and he agreed to share the current list of projects with the oversight committee.

Chula Vista Middle School, Hilltop High School and Montgomery High School are all getting fire alarm upgrades and plans went into effect in June, according to Calhoun.

Adato believes the Team 10 story and the district whistleblower Team 10 interviewed is the real reason the upgrades are finally getting done.

"Because you guys brought it to light and you did a huge service to the community by bringing it to light," said Adato.

The Sweetwater Union High School District has always maintained their fire alarms work and they are in compliance.

District officials said they are planning to upgrade the alarms at all 19 schools.

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