Due to its current condition and lack of structural integrity, the gym at South Point Elementary can no longer be used.
Washington School District Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said cracks in the walls, which appear to be getting worse, prompted a site review by the district’s architectural firm followed by a field visit last week by ASDG LLC, an engineering firm.
VanLeer said school officials decided to discontinue use of the gym based on the findings.
“The walls have horizontal cracks present, reducing their capacity to resist lateral loads,” she said. “Trees are strongly suspected to be a contributing factor to the problem as they believe tree roots are growing under the building, drawing moisture out of the expansive clays, resulting in a reduction in soil volume, slab settlements and wall cracking.”
VanLeer also contacted the Missouri United School Insurance Council to determine if the district could obtain a second opinion by means of one of their recommended engineers.
“That inspection has occurred and we are awaiting their report,” she said, adding that initial conversations with the engineer indicate a similar opinion.
“The two firms are establishing recommendations for remediation and cost estimates associated with the concerns,” she said.
VanLeer said the library area at South Point also will require some remediation, but doesn’t pose the same immediate concern as the gym.
“The slab settlements and wall cracks in other parts of the building do not pose a structural concern in their current condition,” she noted. “We will continue to monitor any changes to these areas.”
For the time being, VanLeer said the gym will not be used until the full reports, along with recommendations for repairs, are received.
A soil specialist may need to determine the time frame in which the remediation can occur, she added.
“Once my office receives the full reports from both engineers, decisions will be made as to how to rectify the issue in the short-term,” she said.
VanLeer said South Point Elementary is in a 100-year flood plain and there are many issues with the building that have been articulated publicly over the years.
“Although previous attempts to build a new elementary school have failed, we are running out of options and the project is our No. 1 priority,” she said.
VanLeer said she plans to meet with building staff and parents after the reports from the engineers are in hand, likely in early November, to discuss all options going forward.
“Our kids and staff deserve a better learning environment,” she said. “It was clear to us in 2010, and it is even more clear to us now. The board of education is very engaged in this issue and will be considering solutions in the coming months.”
The district has tried to pass tax increases over the years to address concerns at South Point School.
In 2012, the district asked voters to approve a 46-cent increase over three years to build a new middle school and a new elementary school; convert the middle school to a ninth-grade center; convert the TLC (Technology Learning Center) to an alternative school; and build a new early childhood center. That measure failed.
In 2013, the district placed two questions on the ballot. The first was a no tax rate increase for wireless infrastructure, a new early childhood center, HVAC upgrades at Augusta Elementary and a Marthasville addition, which passed.
The second question on the ballot was a 25-cent increase for a new middle school and the conversion of the current middle school into the new South Point Elementary. That proposal failed.
VanLeer said South Point Elementary is currently at capacity and utilizing three trailer-style classrooms, in addition to being in a flood plain and now experiencing wall/floor cracking. The middle school is still at capacity as well.