Published May 16. 2014 4:09PM Updated May 16. 2014 11:57PM
Stonington — The fourth floor of West Broad Street School was closed Friday to students and staff after an inspection by Building Official Wayne Greene and Pawcatuck Fire Marshal Kevin Burns on Thursday found sagging ceiling tiles in two classrooms.
Pawcatuck Fire Chief Tom Long sent a letter Friday to Superintendent of Schools Van Riley recommending that the fourth floor, which houses four classrooms and the gymnasium/auditorium, be closed until the school system can have a structural engineer investigate the problem.
The closure follows an incident three weeks ago when a portion of the ceiling collapsed in the stairwell of the 114-year-old school.
Preliminary plans by the K-12 School Building Committee have called for closing the school as the other two elementary schools are renovated and expanded. Although there is a renewed push to move forward with the project, it has been stalled for more than decade, as town officials have been reluctant to add to the town’s debt load.
In 2012, the town had to spend $90,000 to make emergency repairs to the West Broad Street School sprinkler system.
A comprehensive study this year of the town’s six schools found it would take $11.5 million to repair and replace the systems because of years of deferred maintenance.
In many cases, the systems should have been replaced 10, 20 or 30 years ago. In the case of West Broad Street School, the electrical and plumbing systems should have been replaced 90 years ago.
Riley said in a letter to school staff and parents Friday that there are no confirmed safety issues, but to ensure the safety of students and staff, the fourth floor is being closed as a precaution, and classes normally held there will be relocated for the next few week.
He said that while the school is a beautiful building, there have been some recent issues related to the ceilings that need further attention.
A comprehensive study of the entire building will be completed within the next month or so, he said.
“We all need to know the condition of the building and that anyone entering the building will be in a safe environment,” he said in a statement.
Relocation of the classes, he acknowledged, is inconvenient but necessary. He said there will be further updates as the assessment progresses.