James Madison Elementary School is shut down this week after a contractor hired to modernize the school found several buildings to be structurally unsound on Friday. The buildings include the administration building, library and several modular classrooms.
According to a report released by the district, the engineer found support columns to be so rusted at the base, they were worried they would not be able to hold up in high winds or earthquakes. Mold was also found.
Sunday night, Desert Sands Unified School District held an emergency meeting to approve a temporary shutdown of James Madison Elementary School in Indio.
During the meeting, Pam LaPointe, a teacher who works at the school and spoke during public comment, lauded the district’s swift action but was still worried, “I’m a little concerned that on Friday night we had a BBQ at Madison and on Saturday there was Saturday school after hearing of the news on Friday at 5:00 when the LPA firm notified you or us so I‘m just concerned that maybe it wasn’t even quick enough but thank you again for making it this quick.”
Mary Perry said the staff met on Saturday to review the report and take action and praised the contractor who was carefully vetted for finding the issues and alerting them immediately.
At two meetings Monday, parents were briefed on what to expect when it comes to transportation, bus schedules, after school clubs and other logistics.
Scott Davis, the principal says the news is unexpected, “It’s surprising you know we all have children in the buildings and my own kids come over and help out they’re students in the district too and you know all of our staff and everybody we’re like a family and you know we want to make sure everybody’s safe obviously so I think it’s great that this was found and we’re pro actively handling it.”
Students will not have classes until October 21, 2019, while staff is moved to nearby John Adams Elementary School. The school was turned into a learning center for early learning and special education because the elementary school was not being used. The school will accommodate all 500 students.
Perry said safety is a top priority and the district is not taking any chances. Teachers will not be allowed in to move their belongings themselves.
“There will be no one allowed back in the building so we’re hiring a professional team to clear out personal items that they need for instructional purposes that will be boxed up and delivered to them at Adams,” says Perry.
They’re trying to finalize schedules and transportation. Their goal is to minimize inconvenience, so students who need transportation from Madison to Adams will be bused there.
The principal said this is a quick and tough change and is grateful for the support of his staff and parents who are working together as a team, “We’re all in in together and we’re going to make it work.”
Perry said they’re not sure how long the structural repairs will take. Renovations to Madison were aimed to be finished by some time next year.
James Monroe Elementary School was built around the same time and by the same company as Madison, according to Perry. That building will be inspected next.