Heating malfunction forces evacuation at Warwick’s Norwood Elementary

Warwick Fire Dept. Special Hazard Team was called to Norwood Elementary to inspect the air quality following a heating malfunction Tuesday morning. (Photo Courtesy: Katie Heal)

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Students and staff at Norwood Elementary School were briefly evacuated Tuesday morning due to what the superintendent’s office described as air quality concerns following a malfunction with a heating unit in the building.

According to a release from the school district, a custodian noticed smoke and an electric odor coming from a heating unit ventilator in Room 402 around 7:10 a.m.

The district said the unit was shut off and the principal and custodian opened windows and doors to clear the air in the room. However, when teachers and staff arrived at school “they expressed concern about the air quality and the fire alarm system’s functionality,” the release said.

Photo: Katie Heal

Out of an “abundance of caution,” students were relocated to the Boys and Girls Club across Norwood Avenue and the school department asked the fire department’s hazard team to assess the situation and test the air quality at the school. The district said no air quality concerns were present.

The school department said it also contacted the fire alarm company to test the fire alarm system. It said that test showed the system to be fully operational.

Eyewitness News asked the superintendent’s office why there were concerns about the functionality of the fire alarm system and was told, “This is a new fire alarm system. Installation was completed this summer.”

Around 10:30 a.m., students were allowed back into the building to resume the school day.

The principal sent out a phone message to all parents about the situation around 10:41 a.m., the district said.

“The principal elected to focus on the safety of students and staff in getting them situated at the Boys and Girls Club prior to making the phone call to all parents,” the district said in the release. “If the situation had been more serious – such as a fire or other issue – a phone call to all parents would have been made at the outset of the event.”

Despite reports on social media, the school department said Room 402 was the only room in the building without heat. Students in that room have been moved to the library until repairs can be made.

The school department said heating issues in that room first started Friday. Crews looked at the unit Monday and were waiting for a part which, we’re told, arrived Tuesday.