Sycamore Middle School has structural foundation problem causing the ceiling grid to separate from the exterior wall, which is cracking and leaning in an four to six classrooms along the sixth grade hallway. Cheatham County School Board Members addressed the matter Monday, December 5, during their monthly board meeting.
“We need to address it sooner than later before it becomes a bigger issue. We do not see at this time a threat to the students, however we want to resolve it before there is a threat. Again, no threat at this time,” statement from Cal Blacker, Director of Transportation, Maintenance and Custodial read by Interim Director of Schools Stacey Brinkley during Monday’s meeting.
Board member Jennifer Hamblin questioned Blacker on Thursday, December 1, during the board’s work session about the potential threat of the wall collapsing in on the students.
Blacker stated the wall was leaning outward from the structure and currently didn’t pose a threat to students but needed to be fixed as soon as possible. He did express concerns about cold temperatures and winter weather causing the wall to swell, expanding the width of the separation.The foundation problem had been discovered prior to this year but upon a recent evaluation, last years cold temperatures and winter weather had exasperated the problem.
Before proceeding with any projects within the district, the board is required to advertise to the public for bids from contractors, review proposed bids, then vote on the bid that best serves the district and the school budget. Approval of a bid process takes at a minimum of a month but could be longer depending on the number of bids received and if the county commission’s approval of funding is required.
Chief of Operations Dan Henderson explained to board members the structural issue could be deemed an emergency, they could forego the required bidding process, having the matter addressed and fixed immediately. Emergencies allowing immediate attention include threats to students, structure or land.
Members of the board were torn on whether or not to deem the issue an emergency since there wasn’t an imminent threat to students at this time. Board member David Risner suggested shortening the bid process expediting the matter and potentially having repairs done to the wall while students were out for Christmas break. Vice Chair John Louallen agreed the issue needed to be addressed as soon as possible.
Hamblin suggested foregoing the bid process, addressing the matter immediately to eliminate any potential threat to students, administration and further structural damage. She was also concerned with how quickly the wall could be repaired in winter weather and disruption to classroom instruction if repaired while students were in school.
Since Blacker assured the board there wasn’t a threat to students, Chair Kimberly Messer wasn’t comfortable immediately repairing structural damage without retrieving bids. She wanted to gather estimates and contractors experience to make certain the job was completed effectively and efficiently to eliminate the chances of the structural separation happening again in the future. Member David Bibee agreed with Messer. After deliberating on the subject matter, it was decided not to expedite the bidding process since the upcoming holiday limited the amount of time the matter could be addressed before the beginning of the year.
Bids should be retrieved by January 4, the day students will return to school from Christmas break. Board members intend to prioritize the structural wall separation following the opening and returning of students to school in January by holding a Special Called Meeting on Thursday, January 5. They will decide at that time how to proceed in getting the wall repaired as soon as possible.
Board members did approve a motion to establish a budget line item to proceed allocating the funding for the Sycamore Middle School project, eliminating further delays. The funding for the project will not affect the district’s general budget funding.