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New Hammond Gym Unsafe; Remedy Sought

Students at Francis C. Hammond Middle School cannot use their new auxiliary gymnasium until construction problems are remedied.

The problems were identified by the project’s construction manager last summer. “He thought there was something wrong so we had testing done and discovered what had happened,” said John D. Johnson III, the acting assistant superintendent for financial and administrative services for the school system.

“The construction specifications called for the masonry walls to be reinforced with steel reinforcement bars in the spaces between the blocks, approximately every 32 inches. Radar equipment indicated that this was not done.”

The Office of Code Enforcement declared the room unsafe and told the school system that it could not be used until the problem was corrected.

“The walls were originally designed to withstand up to 80 mile per hour winds, and because they were not properly reinforced, they could only withstand perhaps 60 mile per hour winds,” Johnson said.

Until the problem was discovered, students were allowed to use the room. “The minute we knew what was wrong, we notified the city’s office of code enforcement and began working with the contractor to correct it,” Johnson said.

Kris Clark, principal at Hammond, said, “It is a problem, but it is in no way affecting instruction at Hammond. ... The weather has been great, and the kids are able to use the fields for gym class.”

Johnson agreed, saying, “It is an extra space that has never been available before,” he said. “We want to get this corrected as soon as possible, but it is not negatively impacting student instruction.”

School Board member Molly Danforth, a member of the school facilities committee, said, “We hope to work out a solution with the contractor in a timely manner,” she said. “If we cannot, of course, we will take legal action. This is, of course, not what we prefer, but we cannot negotiate indefinitely.”

Johnson hopes to have the problem solved by the end of October. “This is not going to cost the school system anything,” he said. “All of the costs related to solving this problem will be borne by the contractor.”