School officials surprised by roof collapse in Jefferson County

School officials surprised by roof collapse at Jefferson County HS

Posted:
The debris remains from where the roof collapsed Sunday. The debris remains from where the roof collapsed Sunday.
"It's just disgusting. I think they should just build a new one tear it down," said student Austin Stooksbury. "It's just disgusting. I think they should just build a new one tear it down," said student Austin Stooksbury.
"There was nothing to alarm us that there was anything structurally that was going to collapse," said Jefferson County Director of Schools Charles Edmonds. "There was nothing to alarm us that there was anything structurally that was going to collapse," said Jefferson County Director of Schools Charles Edmonds.
"There's mold all over the walls and stuff. The sinks don't work sometimes and it's just bad," said student Wade Stinson. "There's mold all over the walls and stuff. The sinks don't work sometimes and it's just bad," said student Wade Stinson.

By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

DANDRIDGE (WATE) - The Jefferson County School District says there were no signs a building at the high school was in danger of collapsing.

The roof of the Jefferson County High School on Building 8, which houses the vocational and drama departments, collapsed after noon Sunday, following heavy rains.

No one was inside.

The exact cause wasn't immediately clear, but a fire chief said that the recent heavy rain could be a contributing factor.

School officials say although there were leaks, they didn't know of any structural damage and didn't see any indication it was on the brink of collapse.

"There was nothing to alarm us that there was anything structurally that was going to collapse," said Jefferson County Director of Schools Charles Edmonds.

Students, however, said the signs are everywhere.

"It's just disgusting. I think they should just build a new one tear it down," said student Austin Stooksbury.

Stooksbury, who is going into his sophomore year at Jefferson County High School, says he wasn't at all surprised by the collapse at the vocational building. He says there are leaks throughout the entire school.

"Whenever there's big rain the day of or the day after they'll put out trash cans, buckets to catch water. It drips in the hallways," he said.

"There might be some of that happening. Again, that's the reason we're doing this and why it couldn't be put off and why we insisted on this renovation," said Edmonds.

Edmonds admits there is a lot that still needs to be fixed at the school and says the district is working on that now by using roughly $25 million to renovate the buildings.

"This was built under a different code back in the mid-'70s. The building opened in '75. Today, the international building code is much more strict," Edmonds said.

The building was going to have its roof fixed, but now that it has collapsed, Edmonds said they will either do a major renovation or demolish it altogether.

Some current students say this was one part of a bigger problem at the aging school.

"There's mold all over the walls and stuff. The sinks don't work sometimes and it's just bad," said student Wade Stinson.

The school district says the building, like every other building on campus, is inspected once a year. A maintenance worker also does a monthly inspection to take a look at upkeep.

But even with those precautions, school officials say it was unclear the roof was at risk of caving in because the problem was structural - something that's not looked for in an inspection.

"I'm glad nobody was inside, but something needed to be done to open up some eyes," said Jefferson County High School alumnus Cody Wilson.

Wilson, who graduated in May, said during his four years at the school, he also saw the signs of mold and leaks throughout the buildings.

The school buildings are inspected every year by the fire marshal. According to the last inspection in April, the vocational building was marked as having obstructed exits and issues with the fire alarm.

But there's no mention of structural issues because the facilities director says that's not something typically inspected unless there's something noticeably wrong, like a crack in the wall.

"This is not something you would contemplate. It was an issue of apparently the drain was stopped up," said Jefferson County High School Director of Facilities Michael Phagan.

The school says the issue likely came down to a poor drainage system on the building's roof.

School officials insist that all of the other buildings on campus are safe and school will start on time in the fall. Building 8 will not be used.

"The buildings are safe. We are going to ensure the students have a safe environment," said Phagan.

For former students like Cody, he says he believes the collapse was a long time coming.

"You could tell something needed to be done, but they kept on putting it off, putting it off and this shows eventually you're going to have to cross that bridge. Eventually, you're going to have to face the problem," he said.

There are talks of temporarily putting classes that were supposed to be in the new freshman academy that sits just up the road.

School administrators say the cost of the damage is still unclear.

An insurance agent is assessing the damage.

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