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Marty Offline OP
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Double shift system to be applied

The new school year is about to start, and some parents in San Pedro Town are concerned about the safety of the San Pedro High School's (SPHS) infrastructure. Some days ago, it was reported that the staff room's ceiling on the main building's third floor collapsed. According to some parents, there have been no updates on the situation or the building conditions, even though classes are commencing on Monday, August 21st. On Friday, August 18th, Principal Emil Vasquez explained that they would not be using the main building and instead host students in another building on campus called Hon. Manuel Heredia Hall and implement a shift system.

According to Vasquez, this building has been checked and is considered safe for students. "It has about eight classrooms. We are planning to have about ten classes in the morning and another ten in the afternoon," said Vasquez. He added that it is uncertain how long this shift system will last as it will depend on the assessment of the main building and how much repairs may need to be done. Vasquez added that the online system applied during Covid-19 will not be applied, and students will receive their classes in person every day. Vasquez mentioned that although online studying is not considered if it is needed, they will be ready to provide that service to students.

The damage shows the entire ceiling collapsed on top of furniture, including office equipment such as monitors. According to school reports, no one was in the staff room when the roof collapsed. They feel blessed that such a flaw in the building's infrastructure happened during the summer break when the school was closed and no students were on campus.

One of the engineers inspecting the building, Irving Thimbriel, commented the building was not built to withstand the island's natural elements. The main SPHS building has been deemed unsafe to house students, and a major overhaul may be needed. According to Thimbriel, the initial evaluation of the structure found issues with the building's beams caused by the intense salty air blowing on the island. The suggestion for constructions near the sea is to build them more robustly. As with the high school, proper evaluation is needed before adding additional classrooms when expanding a building.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun

Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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SPHS Building Deemed Unfit For Students Days Before Opening

In other news, last Thursday we told you about the structural problems happening at San Pedro High School only weeks before its reopening. The ceiling had collapsed in one of the second floor rooms - a sign that the entire building needed to be checked before letting students back in.

Well, it's the last Friday before schools reopen, and the building is still deemed unfit to host students. What's worse is that one engineer says it could have been a lot worse since the building needs a major overhaul.

Courtney Menzies went to the island today and spoke with the principal about their plans for Monday. Here is that story.

Summer break is almost over, but San Pedro High School will be unable to open their normal classrooms since, about two and a half weeks ago, the ceiling in their staff room collapsed.

Luckily, it happened during summer, and on a Sunday, so no one was injured. But weeks away from the reopening of school, the staff has been scrambling to find a way to ensure that the only high school on the island can accommodate the students.

Emil Vasquez, Principal, San Pedro High School
"However the room was opened on Monday, the following day, again nobody was here, I believe it was a holiday, the 1st of August, I hope I have the dates correct, around 5pm when a teacher went to get some equipment there and then he saw it, and then they called us and from there we came and we began to communicate with the board, with the ministry. So far we have had three engineers, the first one thanks to the San Pedro Town Council, the engineer who works with them and his immediate advise was not to put students and teachers in there for now until a proper evaluation by a structural engineer is done."

"Once we get that report then we will know how to proceed, especially in terms of repairs."

"Definitely we have a plan and again, that is subject to approval from the Ministry of Education, not to use the building, so we are going to use the building there which is the Manuel Heredia Hall. It's a newer building, it has been checked and it is structurally safe for students. that holds about 8 classrooms."

"Right now, we are thinking about working on a shift system, where in the morning we bring ten classes and in the afternoon we bring another ten classes, so we're going to be working on a shift system to begin with. Now, how long that will take, it all depends on how much repairs we need to do to the building."

But what caused the collapse? Well, the school is next to the sea, so the salt air does play a role. But according to the Senior Executive Engineer at the Ministry of Infrastructure - who was one of three engineers that have done evaluations - the building itself wasn't constructed to suit island life.

Irving Thimbriel, Senior Executive Engineer, MIDH
"If it was during normal working hours, somebody might have been killed because it was a sizable piece of concrete. It's almost the entire section of one of the beams that fell off the floor slab. so we went in and we did an evaluation of the entire structure and we found some things that I was concerned about. To the back of the building, there is a wooden gangway, if I may call it that, that allows access from one building to the next. When we were doing inspection, some of the wooden members that allow for the joining of that wooden structure onto the concrete structure, they were already severely decayed and it's a cocktail for another disaster to happen."

"You could see to the rear of the building there are some clubs and some beams that are honeycombed. Honeycomb happens when you have separation of the aggregates when you are pouring the element and those were honeycombed. Normally for concrete structure that are along the side of the coast that are close to the seaside, it's a consequence of the high salt air content. The covering for the rebars has to be greater and there has to leave vibration to ensure that that portion that protects the steels stays in place. And the floor that we saw that fell away, it was a consequence of that extended activity going on without any intervention happening. The steel was place in the middle of the slab, which means that that steel isn't really working and the steel had corroded to almost half the size of its diameter."

A cocktail for disaster, as Thimbriel put it. While, according to the principal, inspections are done every 6 months, and renovations have been made to the outside, the building has been constantly expanded upon over the years without in-depth repairs or evaluation.

And while no one was hurt, parents are still worried about sending their children to school on Monday, especially since they say the school has not been communicating with them.

Delmy Saenz, Parent
"All I could say, thank goodness no one was at the school because you could imagine if school was open and students was in there, somebody would get hurt, so all I could say thank God no one was there."

"We're worried, well, I'm worried as a parent because I don't want anything like that happen again during school hours so I think they should take a very good look at the building to see that everything is okay."

Courtney Menzies:
"Do you feel like there's been a lack of community between the school and the parents as to how they'll move forward?"

Delmy Saenz, Parent
"For right now yes, but I would say maybe when school open, they might have meetings."

Courtney Menzies:
"But don't you think that's a little too late?"

Well, yeah, but I think that's when everyone will be back and I would say maybe then they will get everyone together and talk about it. [00:01:30.08]

Astrid Montes, Parent
"I started to panic, I was worrying because I'm concerned about it because I have there kids, first form, second form, and a third former and it's really hard because you don't want any accident to happen and I think we need a new school. They need to break down the school because I feel like it's kind of old and I really don't want to put my kids in that danger but we have to do it because we need the education."

Courtney Menzies:
"But has the school communicated anything to you guys?"

Astrid Montes, Parent
"No, nothing at all. Everybody knows about it because it was on Facebook and the social media, but I don't know, I think maybe the minister should do something about it and try to put the kids somewhere safe, or build a new school, something."

Courtney Menzies:
"But you're wary about sending your kids Monday."

Astrid Montes, Parent
"Yes, I'm really worried because on Monday I'm sending my first former, and Tuesday the second former, and Wednesday my son that's in third form, I'm so proud of my kids because it's a lot of struggles but my kids passed."

Courtney Menzies:
"And they're talking about putting the kids on a shift system, where some come in the morning, some come in the afternoon in that newer building in the back. Do you feel like this will hinder their process considering they won't be at school all day, it will be just in the morning or the afternoon."

Astrid Montes, Parent
"In a way yes, but they will be more safe and that's what I'm more concerned about as a parent but I wish they could get the full day education but to me, that's more safe because I know my kids they would, like maybe they won't even concentrate good because they're worrying about the ceiling will fall."

And while the plan is for a shift system similar to the one schools practiced after the pandemic pause, there is concern that this might set students back.

Emil Vasquez, Principal, San Pedro High School
"That's a good question, I think that's a concern everywhere, I just came back from a conference in the Caribbean, and that's the same thing they were talking about. We are going to do our best because at some point we discussed why don't we just go online and stuff like that but then we decided no, even if it takes a little more effort on behalf of our teachers and everybody, we're going to bring our kids everyday at school and if we need to complement the school with online work, we are going to build that capacity also to so that."

With the evening division and the junior college, the total number of students who used the building is approximately 1,000.

Ceiling Not SPHS' Only Problem

And that room isn't the only problem the school's building has. According to Thimbriel, there were many alarming issues when he did his evaluation. He also explained that there was no drawings for the building, which may explain the haphazard way the building's extensions were pieced together.

He said the building was completely unsafe for the students using it everyday.

Irving Thimbriel, Senior Executive Engineer, MIDH
"To the back of the building, there is a wooden gangway, if I may call it that, that allows access from one building to the next. When we were doing inspection, some of the wooden members that allow for the joining of that wooden structure onto the concrete structure, they were already severely decayed and it's a cocktail for another disaster to happen."

"We asked for the drawings and we were told there were no drawings for the building, and then from an architectural standpoint, the steps are so steep going into the building. On the rear of the building, there's a cantilever, where there's a step that is placed under the cantilever, minimizing the access that the students have to pass. I don't see any fire escape, it's a three story building. When buildings are designed and used as schools, those buildings have the highest safety factor because the loss of life, if there should be any structural failure, would be great."

"I believe that an architect has to go in there also and make recommendations as to the function of that building as it pertains to the circulation of the students, putting things in for fire safety. what else drew my attention was that it's a three story building and the third floor, the second floor, there was nothing there. I mean, we're dealing with young people, if a fight should start, somebody could easily throw somebody else off that third floor. So it's things like these that I was very concerned about."

He added that they also found issues with the arena used to play sports, and that it shouldn't be expanded upon.

Channel 7

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