Snow takes toll on South Summit school |

Snow takes toll on South Summit school

Nan Chalat-Noaker and Taylor Eisenman, of the Record staff

Students who left sweatpants and T-shirts in their gym lockers over the weekend at South Summit Middle School will have to buy new ones.

Friday night, several hours after the last basketballs bounced across the hardwood floor, a section of ceiling trusses over the gymnasium dressing rooms collapsed under the weight of recent snowstorms, crushing the lockers and triggering the sprinkler system in the gym and surrounding hallways.

Fortunately no one was in the immediate area when the roof gave way.

According to South Summit School District Superintendent Barry Walker, building administrators had been concerned about the wind-loaded snowdrifts on both the middle and elementary schools and had called in a structural engineer to assess the situation on Thursday.

At that point they decided to begin removing snow from the elementary school first. "Because of the short span of the trusses at the middle school and the fact that we did not have any ice built up under the snow it was determined that we could leave the middle school roof until later," Walker said.

But apparently the load on the older wing of the school was too much.

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After surveying the broken ceiling tiles, wet floors and snow-filled locker room, South Summit School Board member Kip Bigelow said, "I was very grateful this happened after hours and none of the students were in jeopardy."

Middle school physical education teacher Dave Matheny arrived Saturday morning to take a look at the damage. He said he had been in that wing until 2 p.m. and didn’t recall hearing anything that might have suggested the roof was unstable.

In addition to the gym, the chorus room, home economics and shop areas will be off limits until the roof is replaced, which Walker said might not be completed until next fall.

South Summit Middle Schoolers, however, were back in class Monday just not in their usual building.

Sixth graders went to South Summit Elementary where the gym was partitioned off to create classrooms. Seventh and eighth graders reported to the high school with the mezzanine, auditorium and other areas transforming into makeshift classrooms.

Middle school lockers were emptied of belongings, numbered and given to students before classes began. Teachers were also able to get enough materials to get them through the week in their new locations.

Walker said the district’s goal is to get everyone back in the middle school building by Tuesday, Feb. 19, after the holiday break. But Business Administrator Zane Woolstenhulme said that with how smoothly things are going, he wouldn’t be surprised if they were back in earlier than that.

"Hopefully we can get the rest of the facility up and useful in a couple of days," he said. "We’ve got a lot of people in place working hard to get things done."

Woolstenhulme said they’ve already isolated the fire sprinkler lines that were affected by the collapse, which allowed them to turn the water back on, including water to the other fire sprinkler lines ensuring the building would be up to fire-safety code.

Electricians are working on rerouting power lines to restore heat to the building, and a general contractor is assessing the walls surrounding the collapse to make certain they’ll be strong enough to withstand the demolition.

Shop equipment also has to be transported to a bus bay in the district’s garage facilities, where the class will resume for the remainder of the school year.

Physical education classes and other athletic events are to be held in the high school’s gymnasium and in the nearby community recreation center, which is owned by the district.

Woolstenhulme said, as of yet, they do not know how much repairs will cost. He continued that the district plans to discuss several options. "We’re not sure what we’re doing as far as fixing," he said. "One option is to put back in place what collapsed. We’re also looking at expansion of the facility while we’ve got things tore up already."

The idea of building new classrooms, he added, was not something the district had been entertaining until the roof collapsed.