Roof collapse prompts reprioritization of school inspections

Roof collapse prompts reprioritization of school inspections
Published: Nov. 26, 2012 at 10:01 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 26, 2012 at 10:53 PM HST
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KALIHI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Structural engineers are trying to figure out what caused the Farrington High School roof to collapse and the state plans to make precautions to prevent another accident.

There's growing concerns about aging buildings at schools across our state. The Department of Education will inspect all school buildings similar to the collapsed auditorium.

For now workers are putting up steel pipes on the side to reinforce the walls to prevent them from collapsing.

Talk about lucky it happened on a Friday there was not school, because Monday there was a freshman assembly planned for inside and there would have been 500 kids sitting beneath the collapsed area.

"When I went in it just floored me. My heart sank. We'll rebuild but I think right now we're in a state of shock," said Al Carganilla, Farrington High School Principal.

Engineers spent the day inside looking at the damage. Age, a heavy downpour of rain, structural integrity and added weight from lights and speakers may all have played a part in the collapse.

"Their speakers from the ceiling and stuff and at this point that's probably even maybe one of the possibilities they are looking at but right now early reports are it was weather and age of the structure," said Carganilla.

"We don't know but it's certainly possible it was multiple factors that contributed. It may be one of those unique confluence of events occurred and the roof collapsed," said Kathryn Matayoshi, Department of Education Superintendent.

The auditorium was built 58 years ago but the gravel tar roof with steel trusses had an engineering inspection 12 years ago. It also had a visual inspection just a few weeks ago.

"There was no indication whatsoever that there were problems with our roof. I know we had roof leaks not only here but around campus, that we knew of but as far as something like this we couldn't have even imagined it," said Carganilla.

That said the DOE will reprioritize to inspect all similar type auditoriums and cafeterias around the state to be sure this doesn't happen again. The inspection costs could be upwards of $1 million to contract engineers.

Farrington High School is no stranger to infrastructure problems. Damaged walkways, dangling wires and crumbling concrete can be seen around the campus. But it's also in the middle of renovations to bring buildings into the 21st century. The roof however wasn't on the priority list.

"No it wasn't and there is no indication there were any significant problems with the roof," said Matayoshi.

If there was no sign this would happen should students and parents be concerned about school facilities?

"No I think the schools generally are safe and they have been undergoing significant renovations and dropping that backlog way down. So I would say you have to send your kids to school," said Matayoshi.

Asbestos levels were tested on Saturday and came back negative.

Two language classes and three counselors' offices had to be moved.

As for how long the school will be without its auditorium? It could be awhile.

"I can imagine it will be months, if not a year or two or more that it will be down," said Carganilla.

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