Repair under way at troubled Meeker school

Work has begun on repairs to the structurally deficient Meeker Elementary School.

Principal Jason Hightower said repairs began a month or more ago and are on schedule to allow the school to reopen in the fall.

A year after it first opened, the school was closed before the start of this school year over concerns it lacked adequate lateral stability to help protect it from winds and earthquakes.

Neenan Co., which designed and built the school, acknowledged it was responsible for structural design flaws and is doing associated repairs at its own expense. It subsequently has been blamed for similar problems at other schools in the state.

Meanwhile, the Meeker School District learned an improper seismic soil classification was used in building the school. The classification considers the ability of earthquakes to travel through soil, and it plays a role in the building’s stability.

The district said the company Terracon was responsible for the improper classification. Hightower said the district school board agreed to accept $50,000 from Terracon, the maximum amount allowable under the contract with the company, for the mistake.

The soil stability work will entail installation of expanded footers. Hightower said the $50,000 will partly offset the $122,000 the district will pay for the soil-related repairs. A bond issue that paid for the school will cover that cost, rather than it having to come out of the district’s general fund, he said.

The Neenan-related repairs entail things such as removing walls to do structural beam work to increase stability.

Hightower said the plan is to begin moving into the school in mid-July and for teachers to have access to it by early August.

The school’s 350 or so students have been taking classes in other district buildings this year, including Meeker High School.

“It’s been a struggle at times. There’s no way around that,” Hightower said.

Kids adjusted within a month or so, thanks to the help of staff and parents, he said. The temporary arrangements even have been the source of some amusement.

“My son’s in second grade, and he’s all excited because he’s already been in high school. He gets a kick out of that,” High-tower said.

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