This school year, Springfield high school and junior high students and teachers were anticipating a brand new start in a brand new building. Their spirits were dampened when it was discovered some of the second story rooms had a bounce in the floors.
Imagine sitting in a classroom, trying to study or trying to teach and, as students move around, the floors bounce. It is something that does happen in larger buildings, but District Superintendent William Stauffer said it was not acceptable in this building.
"If I had not stopped it," Stauffer said, "I am certain we would be open and operating right now."
The bounce was noticeable to Stauffer as he walked through the building several months ago.
"The key word is comfort," Stauffer said of fixing the bounce. "It is not comfortable to have the floor bouncing."
Stauffer emphasized that the issue with the floors has never been a safety issue. All floors have been inspected and tested.
Some floors were also cracked, though not necessarily in the rooms that had the bounce issues.
All of the issues were in the classroom wings of the school.
Engineers were brought in to investigate the floors and presented a fix . Tuned mass dampers (TMD) were determined to be the what would stop the bounce in the floors. Currently, 50 TMD's are being installed in 26 classrooms and they have proven to solve the bounce issue.
A TMD works like a large shock absorber and they are used for this purpose buildings such as sky scrapers or buildings in earthquake areas. The dampers are 36 by 36 inches wide and 18 inches deep. They are installed above the first floor ceilings out of site. Each one is bolted to four steel plates anchored to the top of the second floor as well as to a steel frame.
Stauffer said they are part of the building and are maintenance-free.
Stauffer demonstrated the bounce on an Oct. 11 building tour. He stood on his toes and came down hard on his heels forcing the floor bounce.
In a room where the dampers were installed, he repeated his demonstration. There was just the initial hit of his heels and no bounce followed. Stauffer said the engineer believes that once the bounce is fixed, Springfield's new school will have less bounce in the second floor than any other high school that has been built in Northeast Ohio in the last 10 years.
The cracks in the floors are being repaired through a process that includes being filled with epoxy, then coating the entire floor with a product called Miracote. A fiberglass mesh is laid over the floor and another coat of Miracote is applied.
This process is well underway in the new school.
Page 2 of 2 - PROBLEM SOLVING
As to who is responsible for the floor issues – if it has been determined – the district is not pointing fingers. School board members are working with legal counsel to determine who will pay for the $1.3 million in repairs. The out-of-pocket expenses have not been covered by the contractor or architect at this time.
On the advice of the board's attorney, district officials cannot discuss the issues, but they are working diligently to recover these costs
The school was to be completed in August and opened for the new school year beginning on Sept. 4. Nonetheless, district officials chose to leave all parts of the school closed to students, even those areas which were not affected by bouncing or cracked floors.
The gymnasiums do not have the bleachers assembled, the cafeteria floor is not finished, the music rooms are not complete, the kitchen and so on. These areas should have been completed in August and ready for students but concerns with other issues delayed their completion.
There is a financial penalty if the contractor is responsible for the building not being completed on time.
Rumors about the school's condition have been bouncing around the community, but Stauffer said they are unfounded.
"This is anything but a band aid fix," Stauffer said of steps taken to correct the situation. "We have spent a lot of money to make it right and put a lot of thought, effort and time into making it right. We didn't just try to cover up the problem."
Some community residents have expressed concerns about sending their students to the school because it is perceived as being "unsafe"
"It is not 'unsafe,'" Stauffer said. "Think about this: They will send their children to the old high school, which should have been replaced about 25 years ago. This building is safe, I would send my little granddaughter here."
Students are to be in the new high school after Christmas break. Stauffer said they are finishing everything in the high school wing first so the students can move to allow for the other buildings to come down.
If necessary the junior high students could move in at a later time.