Snow takes toll on South Summit school |

Snow takes toll on South Summit school

by Nan Chalat-Noaker

Students who left sweatpants and T-shirts in their gym lockers 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 middle school was too much.

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Saturday morning middle school physical education teacher Dave Matheny arrived 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 engineers determine they are structurally sound.

South Summit Middle Schoolers however will be back in class on Monday – just not in their usual building. As of Saturday, district officials were planning to send the sixth graders to South Summit Elementary. Seventh and eighth graders will report to the high school.

After surveying the broken ceiling tiles, the wet floors and the 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.