Safety concerns close gym at new Meeker Elementary

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MEEKER I Seven weeks after the dedication of the new elementary school, the gym was temporarily closed because of safety concerns about the east wall.
“We discovered some movement in the wall, at the place where the roof meets the wall,” Principal Jason Hightower said. “There’s too much pressure from the soil pushing the wall in and stressing the connection with the roof and the wall.”
Students were kept out of the gym, beginning Oct. 6.
“We were afraid that if we got a high-wind situation, the roof could lift and fall in,” Hightower said.
“Measures to correct the issue are being planned and will be put into action,” Superintendent Susan Goettel said in a statement released Oct. 6. “It will take some time to fix the issue to the point that we can ensure that the wall is safe for occupancy.
“Unfortunately, we do not have a solid timeline for when the work will be completed, but we’re hopeful that a temporary support can be in place within the week,” Goettel said. “We’re also hopeful that this temporary solution will allow us to occupy the gym while a permanent solution is put into place.”
The school district will not be liable for the cost of the repairs, Goettel said.
“The work that is currently being done at the elementary school is work that is covered by the warranty,” she said.
The problem was discovered by the roofing company, Hightower said.
“Nobody was in any imminent danger at all,” Hightower said. “But once we were aware of the situation, it wasn’t prudent to have anybody in (the gym).”
“It is a situation that was unforeseen and is completely out of our control,” Goettel said.
Mary Strang, president of the Meeker School Board, added, “We’ve been assured there is a permanent fix for it and although it’s temporarily out of use, we hope it will be functional very soon.”
Ugljesa Janjic, project architect with the Neenan Company, which was the general contractor on the school construction project, issued the following statement Monday:
“ A safety concern has been identified on the east side of the Meeker Elementary School gymnasium, where excessive pressure from the hillside has caused unexpected movement to the wall. The Neenan Company’s primary focus is on the safety of the children and community members who use the gym.
“On Oct. 5, we requested that students, teachers, community members, and all school staff immediately stop all use of the gym until a solution was finalized. Neenan began work to address the issue on Oct. 6 with a team of engineers to immediately address the situation and implement corrective measures to relieve the pressure from the wall.
“The Neenan Company takes full responsibility for this issue, and we remain committed to implementing a permanent solution that will ensure the safety of the students and the Meeker community. We apologize to the students, school district and community for this inconvenience.”
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Students in the Meeker School District will be released one hour early on Wednesdays, according to an announcement on the district’s website.
“Early release Wednesdays will replace most of the teacher inservice days, or days that teachers work but students have the day off. In the past, these were days scattered throughout the school year. Early release is a research-based approach to maximize training and collaboration time for teachers.”