Hingham officials said that while a new middle school is being constructed, the town will secure the steel posts that are helping to hold up the roof on the current middle school.
School Committee members discussed the roof at their meeting Monday, determining that although something needs to be done, a permanent solution to the roof won't be needed.
“We decided that we are going to keep the steel posts that are there now in place, now that we know what the interim is,” said Superintendent Dorothy Galo. “Until Town Meeting was over, we didn’t know what was going to happen. Now we know it’s a fixed period of time, the beams will stay in place and we will secure them at the top and bottom, which was the recommendation from the engineers.”
Problems arose in the Middle School roof last winter, when some beams cracked under the weight of snow. Officials received an initial quote of $68,000 to $70,000 to secure the poles and box them in, but decided against that step.
According to Galo, boxing the poles in would only create further visual disruption for the students, as it would make the polls bigger. Furthermore, there is an adjustment valve in every pole. Boxing them in could be problematic if the access to the valve was ever needed.
The committee is working now to get the quotes for securing the poles. With luck, the process should be complete by Christmas break.
According to Galo, the cost will most likely be entirely covered by insurance, and the work would take place after school hours and on weekends to not disrupt classes.
After work is complete, Galo also said an engineer will come in to ensure the poles are secured the way they should be. In addition, engineers will complete a review of the school at the start of every year to monitor the roof while the new building is being constructed.
The fact that insurance will most likely pick up the entire bill is a relief to committee members, who initially feared that they would have to bear the costs for a long-term roof solutions.
“With the other two permanent fixes, we didn’t know how much insurance would cover because…the insurance company would want to go through by beam by beam and determine which was an old crack and which was new, so it was unclear,” Galo said.
Despite the fixes, administrators will have an eye on the roof over the course of the next two years.
“Could we have removed some of those beams? Probably, but we determined that we want to be safe and secure, so we’re going to leave all the beams in place so we won't have to worry as much about snow load, though it will always be in our minds,” Galo said.
For the existing school, there aren’t any other structural needs that have to be addressed over the next two years, and although capacity problems won’t be significant next year (as the incoming 6th grade has 20 students fewer than currently), the final year will be difficult.
“It will be in that one last year that we’re going to be tight, not tighter than we are now, but tight,” Galo said.
It will mean more teachers moving around from classroom to classroom, and rooms that are above the ideal 85 percent occupancy through the course of a day.
They are all problems school officials have been discussing for months, and although they will have to deal with them for two more years, at least now an end is in sight.
“We haven’t really heard much from parents since the vote. We had a parent who wrote a letter about the roof wanting to know what was going to happen, but really there hasn’t been a lot of chatter other than informal things, and we haven’t had significant questions or concerns that have been raised, Galo said.
Engineers are expected to begin work on the new $60.9 million middle school by June of next year. The project is expected to be complete by fall 2013.