Letter: School board responds

We know many residents of our community were unable to attend the public meeting we held on Aug. 16, 2011, and we want to make sure everyone is aware of what is happening regarding the new elementary school. We urge you to read last week’s letter to the editor from the president of the Neenan Company, Randy Myers, regarding the Meeker Elementary School situation. It reflects Neenan’s complete commitment and full cooperation in correcting the structural engineering issues of our new school.
When the elementary school’s east gym wall moved last fall, The Neenan Company’s repairs were approved by an independent engineering consultant, hired by the school district and passed the state of Colorado’s inspection. This consultant recommended we have a larger firm look at the structural bracing in the rest of the building. Although we had a Certificate of Occupancy from the state, we thought it prudent to have such a study completed. Neenan has offered to cover this expense.
Some have asked why it has taken so long to receive the results of the study. The process of putting out a Request For Proposal (RFP), selecting a firm for the job and gathering the necessary information took a considerable amount of time before the work could be started. Structural Consultants Inc. (SCI) was selected to do the work and we received their report on Aug. 1, 2011. On Aug. 6, we authorized the Superintendent to vacate the building and provide for the students’ education in temporary locations and to adjust the school calendar if needed.
The report recommends identified structural engineering concerns be corrected. The issues are related to lateral structural bracing and the adequacy of the load path into the ground. “Lateral bracing” is the defense against wind and seismic forces; and the “load path” refers to the way the lateral forces are transmitted through the building’s strongest structural members into the building’s foundation. We want to stress there have not been any structural failures, but the level of lateral bracing and adequacy of the load path need to be fortified for a category 3 building – the category for schools. This classification requires the next to highest level of bracing. Only hospitals call for a higher standard.
SCI and Vanir, our construction manager (‘owner rep’), represent the Meeker School District’s interests and are working closely with Neenan to ensure a comprehensive solution is developed. SCI is directly involved in the actual design of the repairs, and will be pivotal throughout the construction process. Additionally, the state of Colorado’s Department of Public Safety will review and sign off on the plans before the work can commence. Currently, we don’t know the exact nature of the repairs nor do we have a timeline, but we’ll share this information as soon as the plans are completed and approved.
The temporary locations for elementary grade levels are as follows:
n Preschool, Kindergarten and first-grade classes are located in the Administration Building at 555 Cleveland.
n Second-, third- and fourth-grades are in the northeast corner of Meeker High School where an elementary campus has been created within the high school campus.
n Fifth-grade is located on the west side of Barone Middle School.
n Administration offices are in the lower level of St. James Episcopal Church’s parish hall, Richards Hall, at 368 4th Street.
Our District Administrative team came to these decisions after many hours of brainstorming to determine the least disruptive plan for the students’ education. They had excellent staff input and considered every contingency imaginable. Fortunately, we are able to house all sections of elementary students in our other three existing buildings. They were already prepared for the school year and meet code. Our teaching staff, support staff and administrators are due untold thanks for creating a workable plan and making the moves so efficiently. They did so with an upbeat attitude and an incredible team effort. Their only consideration is the well being of students. If you have a chance, do thank these committed professionals who teach our young people and the others who support their education!
We understand the level of confusion, anxiety and frustration which surrounds the situation and know it is rooted in a sincere concern for the students’ education and safety. The good news is that Neenan has clearly said they will accept responsibility. Once the appropriate repairs are in place, we’ll have a school building which will stand the test of time and continue to provide an exceptional learning environment.
We want to stress the building is not sinking, the concerns have nothing to do with the school’s location and they are 100 percent fixable. The students’ education will not be compromised by these events and no expense will be incurred by the taxpayer. Thank you for your patience while the timeline and the specific repairs are determined; and please continue to ask questions.
Do come to the Open House:
When: Today, Thursday, Sept. 1
Time: 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Place: Administration Building, Meeker High School and/or Barone Middle School.
You can see your children’s temporary classrooms as well as ask any additional questions you may have.
The Meeker School Board