Even prior to the massive blizzard that dumped almost two feet of snow on Hingham residents Friday afternoon, parents were emailing school officials about the Middle School roof.
The flat expanse that hovers over almost every sixth, seven, and eighth grader in town has been a source of concern since February 2011, when a storm dumped several feet of snow onto the building, causing significant structural damage.
At that time, the school put in place shoring beams, and made them permanent as a safety precaution several months later. That measure, coupled with additional engineering reviews done Monday and snow-removal operations, has ensured that all Hingham students are safe, officials said.
“We’re very proactive and we don’t take chances when we come to student and staff safety,” said Roger Boddie, principal of Hingham Middle School.
According to Boddie, before the winter season, the school had an engineer come in and inspect the roof to make sure the structure was secure.
For subsequent storms, the School Committee implemented additional procedures, including another go-around by a certified engineer, measuring snow height and snow density, and possibly removing snow as a precaution.
All that was done on Monday, including a room-by-room look at the roof and calculations on how much weight the surface could bear.
“Once the inspection was completed I sent a mass email out to parents,” Boddie said. “Got a lot of great feedback. They were appreciative of the communication. They felt good they were coming back to a safe area.”
Even with the precautions, Boddie is grateful that the town is in the process of building a new school, to cost a little less than $60 million.
Getting a brand new school sounds even better considering that a report on the roof in August 2011 showed 66 major cracks in structural beams throughout the school and 155 minor cracks.
Though the school won’t be ready for another year or so, the fear of falling snow won’t be long-lived.
“We’re going to live with this for at least another winter season,” Boddie said.
Due to snow drifts and high winds, Boddie said the roof wasn’t as bad as he expected.
“I could tell because I was up there on the first snowstorm, I knew how much snow we had up there at that point. But probably because of high winds, there was less than half the amount of snow up there than the previous. It worked out well for us,” he said.