Two classrooms at Ragland Elementary School had to be evacuated last week because of a crack in one of the walls.
The two classrooms were Josh Ford’s class and Amy Stickrath’s class. School officials moved Ford’s class across the hall to the science lab, while Stickrath’s class moved to the other wing to the intervention room.
RES Counselor Genny Ball said they were replacing a sink in Jennifer Thrash’s third-grade classroom, which is next to Ford’s classroom, and that’s when they noticed the crack in the wall.
“Board member Marie Manning was here during that time, and she immediately called Superintendent Jenny Seals,” Ball said. “Seals then called the contractor, the engineer and the maintenance supervisor. They assessed it the next day. The insurance adjuster came out. He said there was no scare to injury and that the wall may never fall.”
Lee Bryant, architect with Lathan Associates Architects PC, said his initial observation found there was no threat to the students at any time.
Bryant addressed the St. Clair County Board of Education Monday and ask that the BOE declare this project an emergency to speed up the bidding process.
“These are settlement cracks of some sort occurring in the masonry concrete walls,” Bryant said. “They are non-load bearing, and we are not alarmed. It is something that happens in old buildings.” (The school was built back in the 1950s.)
Bryant said there was one exception, and that was where one column between the two classrooms is showing cracks, and it needs to be fixed.
He also said there is a lot of clay in that area and that these cracks were influenced by moisture.
“After going months with no rain, we had a lot of rainfall the last part of last year,” Bryant said. “We have cracks, old cracks, and very old cracks there.”
Ball said they went ahead and evacuated the two classrooms, because workers would be in the classrooms and school officials did not want the students in there while work was being done. She said they estimate that it would take about a week.
Ball said there are only a couple of little cracks in Ford’s class, and it was obvious they had been painted over, so they have been there for awhile.
Bryant said rumors that the new roof put on the building recently caused the cracks in the wall are not true.
“This crack had nothing to do with the new roof,” Bryant said. “There is evidence of old cracks, and evidence of new cracks. We recommend they bring in an engineer, do more investigation, and get it repaired.”
Superintendent Jenny Seals said next week they will involve a geotechnical engineer to perform tests, including a ground quality test to better understand what has caused this to occur.
“A thought discussed was settlement movement, which could have been the result of contracting/expanding cycle of the ground quality caused by the drought conditions of 2012 coupled with the recent excessive rains,” Seals said. “Building science recognizes that all buildings and structures, from the time they are built, incur movement; which usually goes unnoticed until something similar occurs. Newer buildings are built on non-expansive engineered soil and provided with man-made cracks called expansion joint or control joints to cosmetically absorb this type of non-threatening movement.”
Seals added that based on initial observations, the building appears to be safe and they feel there is no reason for alarm.
“We are taking every precaution to keep everyone safe as repairs are being pursued,” she said.