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Structural Problems May Delay Opening at Sullivan West

By Dan Hust
LAKE HUNTINGTON — September 4, 2007 — Sullivan West High School may be open tomorrow.
Then again, it may not.
In fact, thanks to structural problems at the Lake Huntington campus, Superintendent Ken Hilton is anticipating at least a daylong delay.
“It likely will mean a delayed opening of school,” he said Friday.
On Thursday, the board convened in emergency session to review the reports of two consulting engineering firms hired early in the summer to investigate cracked tiles on the high school’s second floor.
Hilton said officials initially deemed them to be cosmetic indications of the five-year-old building naturally settling, but after a more thorough investigation involving sonar, X-rays and even the drilling of sample cores around duct openings between the first and second floors, engineers “began to question whether they were as structurally sound as they should be,” Hilton explained.
As a result, they advised the board to install extra support columns to “ensure we don’t have any problems with the building,” said Hilton.
However, he added, “We’ve got a long way to go before any problems.”
Despite the need to “shore up” classrooms on the second floor, the superintendent stressed that the high school is safe.
“What we’re doing to it ensures it’s absolutely safe,” he remarked.
Though the school has long been locked in litigation with the builders and architects of the high school over numerous structural and site difficulties, Hilton said the district is working with those same companies to resolve the current issue.
“We’re trying not to point fingers of blame,” he said.
Repairs – mostly the installation of an unspecified number of support columns – were scheduled to commence today.
How that work will be paid for (the district does have a reserve fund for such emergencies) remains to be seen.
“We’ll worry about that later,” said Hilton.
While SW’s elementary school in Jeffersonville will open on time tomorrow, the high school may not open until Thursday – or later, if officials deem more remediation is necessary.
“We’re not taking any chances,” Hilton said. “We don’t know the full extent of what we’re going to find… This is a concerned school board that has erred consistently on the side of caution.”

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