FAIRMONT – East Park Elementary School is closing today as part of the ceiling broke off the auditorium on Monday.
While no one was injured or in the room when the piece fell, Marion County School’s superintendent Randy Farley decided to close the school while a construction inspector assessed the damage. The school will remain closed today while the results of the air quality tests are carried out.
“I decided to close it because when we saw the cast had come off and it was making such a mess there,” Farley said. “We weren’t sure what was in the air or what the structural condition was, so we called in an inspector. We wanted to make sure there was nothing in the air quality that could affect anyone. “
A building inspection of the school on Monday found that the damage to the ceiling was only cosmetic and Farley said the damage should be easily repaired. This is the first time that structural problems have appeared in the school auditorium, and this at a time when the school roof has already been repaired because it has got inside.
Despite the two-day closure, Farley said the school, with around 350 students and 20 teachers, does not have to make up for the days as if they were snow days as there are minutes of lessons accumulating.
“Right now we can use the accrued classroom logs so we don’t have to extend the school year,” he said.
Farley said the school’s central offices should have air quality test results by 3 p.m. today, but he expects it to be clean as the inspector said there was no asbestos or any other harmful area where the ceiling fell Materials found.
Farley also said the administration is currently unsure what caused the incident as it could have been the age of the school or the roof repair project.
“We had an asbestos report that said we had no asbestos in that section,” Farley said. “We don’t really know whether the weight or the knocking on a new roof caused the stress factor for the plaster. We just think that there has to be a relationship with it. “
Overall, safety was the main concern of the administrators, who were grateful that no one was injured in the collapse or that harmful materials were released in the rubble.
“Our first concern is the safety of everyone involved,” said Mary Jo Thomas, president of the education committee. “So it’s better to be extra sure than later, and Mr. Farley made that decision. We are very unhappy that this ceiling fell, but thank God no one was in the auditorium at the time. “
Thomas is also a member of the Marion County’s Local School Improvement Council, which examines every school in the county for opportunities to improve them individually. Structural integrity is a common issue at these LSIC meetings, and Thomas said the committee may seek improvements to the older Marion County school buildings.
“Security is always addressed. We always ask that this be addressed in LSIC meetings, ”said Thomas. “We are nearing the end of a 10-year plan and we will start another in 2020. So we’re looking at things and changes, as well as the possibility that we should submit some things to the school building authorities for updates.