Faulty concrete forces school closure

(Ky) — The bell thatmarks the end of the last day of school for Lyon County Middle Schoolstudents next week may also signal the end of the school building’sshort life.

Schooldistrict officials say the building, which opened for students duringthe 2003-04 school year, may be demolished because of problems with theconcrete in its foundation.

TheLyon County Board of Education, meeting in special session on May 10,voted to discontinue the use of the middle school at the end of thecurrent school year because of safety concerns for its students andstaff.

Beforethe middle school was built, the county’s seventh and eighth gradershad been part of Lyon County Junior/Senior High School, and sixthgraders had been a part of the elementary school.

Withthe opening of Lyon County Middle School, students in grades 6-8 weregiven their own identity as Lyon County Middle School students, BoardChairperson Ruthanne Williamson said, in a written statement concerningthe fate of the school.

By building Lyon County Middle School, the goal of the Lyon County Board of Education had been accomplished, she said.

Soon after the school opened, though, problems started appearing.

Before the building was two years old, they started noticing cracks, Superintendent Quin Sutton said Friday.

For the most part, they start smaller and they continue to grow, and they become more numerous also.

Asthe construction problem became evident, school district officials tookcore samples from the building’s concrete and had them tested forpossible alkali-carbonate reactivity, or ACR, in the fall of 2005.

Thecondition references a reaction between faulty limestone aggregate andcement in a concrete mixture. Concrete affected by ACR is subject todeterioration and cracking, as are any structures built with thatconcrete.

In the summer of 2006, the testing lab confirmed the school’s samples had tested positive for ACR.

A second round of testing with more core samples confirmed the lab results.

Theschool district began to hold regular and frequent inspections of theschool building at that point to ensure the safety of its students andstaff, Williamson said.

Theboard, she added, was assured that the building was safe for occupancyafter each inspection. Student and staff safety is, and at all timeshas been, the foremost priority, she said.

Aftera May 5 inspection of the middle school, though, engineers advised theschool board not to expect to occupy the building when the 2010-11school year begins in August.

In2007, the board of education filed suit against the Federal MaterialsCompany (FMC) and other companies involved in supplying the faultyconcrete.

The suit remains active in Lyon County Circuit Court. Mediation is scheduled Monday, Aug. 9.

Theschool board did not participate in a class action suit brought againstFMC by approximately 375 plaintiffs in Caldwell, Crittenden, Hopkins,Lyon and Trigg counties.

That suit was settled for about $10 million last year.

InLyon County, school officials are working with state legislators andother elected officials to seek state assistance for a new building’sconstruction.

Meanwhile,the middle school’s student body of 200 and its staff will share spacewith the county’s elementary school when the new year begins.

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