Results of Michigan School Roof Collapse Released, Parents Share Mixed Feelings
Last month, the roof of Lee Middle & High School collapsed overnight due to water corrosion. A structural engineer identified the issue, and the school is taking measures to ensure the structural integrity of the school, but not all parents are convinced the building is safe.
- By Kaitlyn DeHaven
- July 22, 2019
The roof of Lee Middle & High School collapsed overnight between June 5 and 6 due to water corrosion. According to Fox 17, West Michigan, a second portion of the wall collapsed on June 23 after partial demolition had begun to stabilize the building. The collapsed roof was over seven classrooms and the psychologist’s office in the high school wing. Luckily, no one was injured in either collapse, as school finished on May 31.
A structural engineer investigated the building and found that the initial collapse was caused by the erosion of steel joints on the west wall due to water seepage. The investigation also showed that the district maintained the building and the roof well before the collapse, and had assessments in 2014 and 2017 to ensure the building was secure. The report states that there were no visible signs the roof was about to collapse.
“It’s a serious issue,” Superintendent Kevin Polston said. “It would have been a catastrophe if the building was occupied during that time. There’s no question. We don’t take that lightly.”
Polston said the corrosion that caused the roof collapse was happening for decades, but they are still unclear on what caused the water leak.
“The corrosion that happened on these bar joists, in the structural engineer’s opinion, happened over decades,” Polston said.
The structural engineer said that the collapsed part of the building is the only one that used those materials and design for structural support.
Parents and community members were given updates at a status meeting last week, and were reassured that the school will be safe for students on Aug. 19 when school is scheduled to begin for the fall. However, the parents have mixed opinions on whether or not the school will be safe for the students to attend.
Jesse Hinojosa and Jessica Hernandez, who are both parents of eight-graders, said they are not confident that the building is safe. Hinojosa said he has enrolled his student at Wyoming Public Schools for this next year because he’s concerned about another collapse. Hernandez said she is debating moving her student to another school.
“I am still debating whether I want to continue sending him to this school,” Hernandez said. “I am not confident it is safe.”
Jessica Arizola feels the opposite way. She said the school leaders gave a presentation that gave her the reassurance she needed to know that her sixth-grader would be safe.
“I am definitely very confident now my sixth-grader will be safe,” Arizola said.
Polston said that it is their responsibility to make sure the parents know their students will be safe attending the school. He said through this meeting and the analysis, they were assured, but they must share this knowledge with the parents. Through this meeting they accomplished a bit of that goal, but Polston said he knows they still have to keep working for complete reassurance.
“These children are their parents most-prized possessions,” Polston said. “I needed 100 percent assurance that condition in that building were safe for occupancy, and I am confident in the structural engineer’s analysis.”
According to Michigan Live, all unstable and/or damaged materials are said to have been removed and other adjacent areas have been shored and stabilized as a precautionary measure. Polston said barriers have been erected around the damaged area.
Kaitlyn DeHaven is the Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.