Thursday, January 29, 2004

Summit students back at school

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Montessori teacher Regina Sansalone carries Devin Scarborough while leading Emma Rademacher by the hand as they get a look at their temporary classroom at Crossroads Community Church in Oakley on Wednesday.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
HYDE PARK - Ten days after a portion of Summit Country Day School's main building collapsed, the principal contractor said workers knew the site required special shoring to prevent such an accident.

A pre-construction soils report prepared for Summit warned that foundations in the 114-year-old main building needed extra support during construction of an adjacent building.

"Everybody knew we were building next to adjacent structures and there were strong requirements in some areas," Rich Homan, vice president/general manager of Turner Construction Co.'s Cincinnati office downtown, said Wednesday.

No one was injured Jan. 18 during the Sunday morning collapse, which toppled three stories.

School was closed last week and reopened Wednesday. Nearly 250 preschool and kindergarten students will finish the school year off campus, attending classes at Crossroads Community Church in Oakley. Summit's 317 high school students will finish classes at Xavier University.

The rest of Summit, its first through eighth grades, returned to campus Wednesday in areas separate from the main building.

Turner, which has several subcontractors on the project, immediately brought in a crisis team.

Summit pupils feel right at home in borrowed classrooms

"I think everybody was pretty surprised. This is not done in any haphazard manner," he said. "There is a lot of detail and thought given into this. We have been in business 100 years, and I can't remember something like this happening."

A demolition crew has removed the buckled fourth story and suspended roof of the main building.

"We live and die by our reputation, and we stand up and do the right thing," Homan said. "Over the last, I would say, nine years, we have done $600 million in K-12 work (building schools). It's a big part of what we do. We have been very successful at it, and I am pretty proud of how our team responded to this crisis."

Summit officials said they continue to have faith in Turner. The company is working to meet a September deadline for an $11 million construction project for a new Lower School for Montessori and elementary students.

In a preliminary assessment last week, Bill Langevin, director of Cincinnati's buildings and inspections department, said workers dug too deep, too close to the existing foundation. In addition, he said, bad weather and a previously undetected difference in the depth of foundations of the collapsed portion of the building likely contributed.

The pre-construction report is included in the drawing plans for the construction project done by the architect, Homan said .

"The geotechincal report is built into the design documents, so that information is provided to the designer and put on the drawings - and we build on those," Homan said. "The architects utilized the report as a basis for their design. It's a very collaborative process. Everybody was aware of all this information.

"Whenever you're up against an existing building, there is a plan that is developed and the city is involved, the architect is involved, the engineer is involved - so everybody is trying to make sure the plan works."

Homan declined Wednesday to discuss Langevin's assessment on the collapse. "I don't think anybody has the true facts yet," he said. "I have high regard for Mr. Langevin ... but the fact of the matter is there are quite a few engineers, very smart people, out on the site now investigating the cause."


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