ALBEMARLE — The West Stanly High School wrestling team has recently found itself without a home after its practice facility at Ridgecrest Elementary was shut down by Stanly Fire Marshal Danny Barham.
On Dec. 1, Barham issued a stop work order and locked the doors of the facility after a fire inspection yielded a failed alarm system, blocked building exits and nonfunctional emergency exit signs.
Although the school at Ridgecrest has been closed down for over a decade, the Colts’ wrestling team has used the building as its typical practice location; West has now been forced to use West Stanly Middle School in the meantime.
Stanly County Schools Maintenance Director Keith Benton and SCS Director of School Safety and Security Jennifer Flowe were notified of the situation by Barham.
At the Stanly County Board of Education meeting on Dec. 5, Benton addressed the school board with an update, adding that SCS is collaborating with a fire control company and the fire marshal to get the practice facility back and running.
“On Dec. 1, during the inspection, it was found that the analog board and the fire panel were in trouble mode,” Benton said. “Certified installers have been contacted and we are contracting with them currently right now to purchase the new board and install the new board, which should take place tomorrow.”
He confirmed that a successful fire inspection had been completed in March but that the motherboard of the analog system had been “taken out” by a natural power surge between then and now.
The broken alarm technology was not the only issue that required a solution.
“During this inspection, the fire marshall also found that there was not enough ample room in the classrooms or hallways to allow firefighters or safety personnel to gain needed access in case of an emergency in the building,” Benton said. “Stanly County facility staff — along with custodial support — worked diligently yesterday and today to clear all hallways and provide a three-foot walking path from the windows through the classroom and to the hallways.”
Items were removed from the school and taken to the metal scrap yard and recycling center where SCS received a payment.
With a new functional fire alarm system, illuminated exit signs and a cleared pathway, Benton stated that the fire marshal can come back out to re-inspect so that West Stanly’s wrestling team can soon use their practice facility again.
While SCS has taken recent actions to remedy the situation, some local parents of West Stanly High wrestlers have said the school district waited too long to act — a failure in responsibility that ultimately forced the fire marshal’s hand.
During the public comment section of the meeting, concerned parent Matthew Shutt voiced his displeasure with SCS, who he said has used Ridgecrest facility as a spot to offload old classroom equipment from throughout the county, leading to extensive clutter.
“My son got locked out of his practice facility because we failed,” Shutt said. “I just overheard a conversation with the gentleman sitting up here that said we just found out about all this. How did you people not know what was going on at the other end of the county and the serious nature of what was going on? I think everybody up there knew that the ugly property was over there.”
“I appreciate you doing something,” he added. “But let’s make it right. Let’s figure out who failed, how they failed and when they failed to hold them accountable.”
Later in the meeting, school board member Dustin Lisk agreed with Shutt that the school system had experienced a “breakdown in communication” that will be addressed.
The Stanly County Board of Education will hold its next meeting on Jan. 2 at a location to be determined.