Last month, Vermont School Board Insurance Trust’s (VSBIT) occupational health and safety professional Debbie Kilpatrick spent several hours performing a safety audit of Warren School, during which she identified a number of hazards.

When asked how the safety of the building at Warren School compared to that of other schools in Vermont, “I can usually tell by how many hours Debbie spends there,” VSBIT manager of risk services Tim Vincent told the Warren School Board on Tuesday, September 1. “When Debbie has lunch somewhere and comes back, that means it’s pretty involved,” Vincent said, “and that’s what she did with Warren School.”

The VSBIT does not rank schools in the state according to how safe they are, but if they had to, Warren School would be “down at the bottom ... because of the severity of the stuff that’s there,” Vincent said, including the potential for mold growth due to water damage and potential structural damage due to rotting wood.

Vincent gave examples of these and several other hazards – including the use of extension cords and other unfixed wires, unsecured bookcases and “concerning” reading lofts, among other structures – all of which present the potential for fires, falls and strangulation.

VSBIT also performed an insurance audit of the playground, which Vincent explained has insufficient surfacing material to protect against falls and several features with unsafe protrusions and/or gaps that have the potential for impalement or head-neck entrapment.

The Warren School Board is currently negotiating an insurance claim regarding an incident that took place on the playground this past year, after which it requested VSBIT’s services. “We thought it would just be best if we had an audit of the entire place done,” board chair Michael Ketchel said last Tuesday.

The VSBIT insurance audits provide “recommendations and best practices,” Vincent said, from which a school identifies which hazards it wants to address first.