The fire alarm system at Gridley Middle School, on Tucson’s east side, went out in mid-December.

The state of Arizona has awarded $275,000 to Gridley Middle School so that it can replace a fire-alarm system that hasn’t worked for weeks.

The Arizona School Facilities Board approved the building renewal grant Wednesday to replace the system that went out in mid-November. Since then, a fire monitor has been patrolling the east-side Tucson Unified School District campus for signs of fire — a human fire alarm system, of sorts.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office requires a monitor to be present during occupied hours when a school’s alarm system is down. In the case of a fire, he or she would alert school officials via a hand-held radio and call 911.

There has been one fire scare since the monitor was put in place, according to KOLD, but Tucson Fire determined the smoke resulted from an HVAC system failure — not a fire.

TUSD will begin the system replacement process now that the funding has been approved, according to district spokeswoman Leslie Lenhart. She was not able to specify how long that process might take.

Gridley’s alarm system has been replaced one time since the school opened in 1974. That was in 1995. Lenhart said 78 fire-alarm systems across TUSD no longer comply with state fire code standards because they have exceeded their life expectancy. The district was not able to provide a list of the schools with non-compliant systems by the Star’s deadline.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office has approved having the district to keep the aging systems up and running with regular maintenance. The system at Davidson Elementary School is having notable issues, Lenhart said, but it is functioning safely, for now.

Districts across Arizona have struggled to make necessary updates to safety systems, buildings, bus fleets and more because of recession-era cuts.

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Gov. Doug Ducey has restored $100 million of the $116 million he made in cuts back in 2015, but that only makes up a fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars the state has whittled away from capital funding since 2008.

Because of the cuts, districts have had to ask homeowners to pay for capital projects with increased property taxes in bond elections.

Correction: This story originally misidentified the date the fire alarms failed. The alarms failed in mid-November. 

Contact reporter Brenna Bailey at or 573-4279. On Twitter: @brennanonymous.


Brenna explains how national, state and local K-12 education issues impact Tucson schools. She's a proud product of Arizona public schools. Send her news tips, story ideas and existential life questions at