Crew making repairs to Gomez ceiling
Published: October 1, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - Joseph Gomez Elementary School was a very different scene Monday morning compared with the chaos there one week ago.
Where a 100-foot section of overhanging roof on Sept. 23 had fallen on one of the fourth-grade teachers, Alison Ford, there instead was a work crew.
In the last week, the work crew, which is being contracted by the V.I. Education Department, has been working at the building where the incident occurred.
The building, which usually is where the second- through fourth-graders attend class, has been closed since the incident. Students are expected to return to the building in about two or three weeks.
The work crew removed the cement filling from the overhanging roof that had a section fall last week.
The filling will not be replaced, as the cement may have been the reason that the section fell, according to Joseph Sibilly, deputy superintendent of the St. Thomas-St. John school district.
While Sibilly does not know why the overhanging roof was built with cement, he said that it now only will consist of a thin metal sheet. "Apparently, it had been there for years," Sibilly said.
Sibilly could not date the overhanging roof, but he said that he thought that no other buildings in the district had overhanging roofs that were built with the same materials.
Sibilly also said that he had not received any complaints about the building prior and that there were no indications of disrepair that he or his employees could have seen.
The last assessment that was conducted on the district's facilities was in August 2012, Sibilly said, when the U.S. Department of the Interior conducted a rapid assessment, though a detailed inspection of the overhanging roof likely was not part of that.
A rapid assessment, as opposed to a full assessment, is less comprehensive. A full assessment, which looks at every aspect of a district's facilities, has not been conducted since about 2004 or 2005, Sibilly said, and, even then, it never was completed.
"It ran into the millions," Sibilly said, noting that the full assessment was too costly to continue at the time.
Another assessment likely is not in the works any time soon, Sibilly said, as the district already knows of tens of millions of dollars of repairs that are needed.
"The things that we can see, those are the ones that we are addressing," Sibilly said.
However, Joseph Gomez Elementary School is expecting a full assessment of its own in the near future, at the request of its new, first-year principal Jamon Liburd.
"The children are doing perfectly fine," Liburd said Monday.
Many of the students in Ford's class have been sending her cards and gift baskets, Liburd said.
Ford, who was pinned down for nearly a half-hour before emergency responders freed her, still was in the hospital's surgical ward as of Monday afternoon.
Ford had surgery after both her legs and an arm were smashed. Her class was trapped in their room until emergency responders could lift the section, free Ford, and unblock the classroom. Students were unharmed.
Until Ford returns, a substitute has taken her place, and all of the classes usually conducted in the building where the roof fell have been reassigned to other classrooms or spaces.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email email@example.com.