New Building Committee To Inspect Hartford Schools
Action Comes After McDonough School Ceiling Collapse
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
June 10, 2013
HARTFORD — — A new building committee will inspect city schools this summer and recommend repairs that should be prioritized in light of a partial ceiling collapse last week at McDonough Expeditionary Learning School, school officials said Monday.
The board of education will appoint members of the ad hoc committee on June 18, said Matthew Poland, the board chairman. He plans to reach out to a half-dozen people to serve, including those with technical expertise.
The panel is not being formed to focus on McDonough, but rather all city schools "so we can get a sense of what other problems are lurking out there," Poland said.
"It's about an inspection of the properties. Our hope is that we start June 18 and by the time September rolls around ... we can talk about what we've learned," he said.
The incident at McDonough occurred at 2:36 p.m. Thursday in a seventh-grade classroom on the school building's second floor, said schools spokesman David Medina.
A 13-year-old student and a 26-year-old teaching intern were taken to the hospital with minor injuries after a 6- by 12-foot piece of wallboard — and a long, fluorescent light fixture attached to it — fell from the ceiling while class was in session, according to Medina and the Hartford Fire Department, which rushed to the scene.
Fire officials described the injuries as bruises.
A hundred seventh-graders in a cluster of four classrooms, including the room where the ceiling collapse occurred, have since been relocated to the Wilson Street side of the McDonough building through this week. The last day of school is Friday.
The three other classrooms had cracks in the ceiling, Medina said Monday. A structural engineer who inspected the school building late Thursday afternoon recommended closing off the four, second-floor classrooms until repairs can made when the school year ends.
McDonough was about a century old when it underwent a $15 million renovation in the mid-1990s.
The school system has more than three dozen school buildings across the city, including several newly renovated magnet schools. One neighborhood school, Burns Latino Studies Academy, has "crumbling" staircases that will be repaired this summer, Poland said.
A district statement released Monday afternoon said the committee's purpose is "to get an assessment of the structural health of the district's buildings." Poland said he spoke with Superintendent Christina Kishimoto about gaining a more in-depth understanding of "the conditions at our schools."
The committee is expected to report its findings to the school board in September. Board members, including Mayor Pedro Segarra, might then discuss funding for particular school building improvements.
"I think it's likely that there will be some prioritization done," Poland said. "Looking at the older schools first ... whether it's leaking roofs or [damaged] staircases, what are the conditions?"
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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