Make over a million dollars in repairs and improvements or tear down part and replace part of the building to make the Climax Springs R-IV School a safe environment for kids. That was the recommendation in a facility analysis presented April 12 by senior project manager John Clement of the DLR Group — an architecture and engineering company hired by the board of education to do a site evaluation.
As is, the school "does not meet ADA and life safety code requirements and therefore does not provide safety to its occupants," the report states.
"There are no approved tornado shelters with appropriate wind-rated construction anywhere within the school. The spaces currently labeled as tornado shelters are not recommended for that use," begins the Safety and Building Code Conditions section of the analysis.
The designated tornado shelters have been reviewed and okayed, however, by the Camden County Emergency Management Office, according to Superintendent Michael Diekmann.
When asked by board member Josh Wolfe if he'd want his kid against one of these walls during a tornado, Clement replied simply, "No."
The report also states that the building lacks fire-rated corridors, doors and windows as required by current building codes for structures without a fire suppression system. If a sprinkler system were installed, a new well and fire pump would be required.
According to staff reports, the fire alarm has not been fully functioning at all times but is reportedly working at this time. The control panel for the alarm has been discontinued by the manufacturer as it is no longer in production, the DLR report states.
Other life safety and code issues were found with the exhaust and ventilation systems as well as the electrical system.
Among other issues, the oldest branch circuits pre-date the use of thermoplastic nylon insulation commonly used on building conductors today.
"These old conductors with cloth type insulation create a fire hazard," the report states. "Staff also reports that live undermined wires existing above ceilings and because of the lack of documentation of the electrical equipment, they are not able to locate the source of these circuits."
There are also "numerous locations throughout the building" that are not up to code for handicap accessibility, such as one set of bathrooms and the sidewalk up to the front entry.
The most deficiencies are in the south side of the school, Clement said.
The front entry area on the south side is the oldest part of the school. It was the original building constructed in the 1950s. The elementary and library areas are additions from the 1980s and 1990s.
The report estimates that it would cost around $1.34 million to fix life safety and code issues for the entire building. Major and minor building improvements suggested by DLR would raise the price tag to approximately $3 million. These totals include 15-20 percent extra for construction contingencies.
Page 2 of 3 - The majority of the $3 million, however, would be sunk into the old part, which is one reason DLR is recommending the south side be torn down and rebuilt rather than trying to fix it, according to Clement.
The approximate cost in 2012 dollars to bring the south part of the school up to current educational and life safety standards is well over 50 percent of the cost to rebuild, the report states.
Moisture is main culprit in the deterioration of the structure over the years, according to Clement.
Poor site grading and drainage, aged and damaged guttering and downspouts and single wythe construction have made the building more susceptible to water penetration.
Single wythe construction — one concrete block wide walls rather than double — has made the building more vulnerable to interior water penetration at door and window openings. A common method in the 1950s, single wythe construction — which is what is what was utilized in the majority of the building including the more recent additions — is no longer common practice, according to Clement.
"We like to use double wythe construction now," he said.
Moisture penetration is behind the severe settling of the foundation, causing gaps and significant cracking between blocks.
Diagonal cracks can be seen around the building.
"The concern is the number of cracked CMU (concrete masonry unit) walls," Clement said.
Bracing has been added to parts of the school, but with continued settling, "it can't help forever," he said.
If the south side of the school is repaired instead of replaced, DLR recommended tuck points and sealing of places that are cracked as well as mudjacking to stabilize the structure.
"It's really a fight to stop water penetration," Clement said. "The building is safe for now, but over time, it will continue to deteriorate."
Outside of life safety and code issues, major building improvements recommended by DLR totaled about $1.1 million.
This list includes many items related to improving site grading and drainage to try to prevent moisture penetration as much as possible, such as replacing all metal copings, gutters and downspouts on the original gym and high school building (south side). With significant puddling from rain, replacement of the roof is also recommended.
Minor building improvements recommended by DLR would total approximately $474,810. These items include replacing all remaining single-pane windows and repairing non-functioning science room sinks, gas cocks and electrical outlets. The replacement of ceiling tiles was suggested as moisture is causing many to sag throughout the building. Replacement of the gym floor and basketball system was also on this list as was painting the walls and replacing toilet partitions.
Diekmann noted that the costs set out by DLR are only estimates. The analysis is a starting point for the board to develop priorities after two attempts to finance a new school failed to gain voter approval.
Page 3 of 3 - In the executive summary of its analysis, DLR recommends the board "focus on life safety and ADA deficiencies first; then on infrastructure repairs such as electrical and mechanical systems and 'warm and dry' projects like roof repairs and moisture infiltration issues. While there are some space deficiencies in the school such as classrooms, conference rooms and administrative areas, life safety projects should always be the highest priorities."