“Unusual” installation of ceiling tiles at West Jessamine High School’s gymnasium nearly 20 years ago has caused loose panels that need to be replaced, an architect told the school board Monday.
A loose ceiling panel in the gym drew the district’s attention in late December. Margie Jacobs of Tate Hill Jacobs told the Jessamine County Board of Education at a special meeting Monday that roughly 70 percent of that 4-foot-by-8-foot panel was unsupported.
“We estimated that it was close to 170 pounds of stuff that would be coming down if it were to fall,” Jacobs said.
There was no water damage and the problem was with only the ceiling tiles and not the roof, Jacobs said. But as repairs were done on the collapsing tile, it became clear that other panels also needed to be replaced.
“The manufacturer that I spoke with said that these panels were never designed to support their own weight for these spans,” Jacobs said. “It’s visible; they’re all sagging and deformed ... They are not mechanically fastened; they are literally just resting on some steel angles that are very thin, and so as they deform, they are slipping out.
The Tectum panels were installed in 1994 after a tornado damaged the gymnasium in what was then Jessamine County High School. Jacobs said the material was very common in gyms and that the error appeared to have been in the “unusual” manner it was installed and not in the product itself.
“It’s not the panel — it’s because it was not installed with adequate support,” she said.
The board approved the BG-3 — the statement of probable cost and the associated contract documents — for the project at Monday’s meeting with an estimated cost of $70,880, less than initially projected due to a decision to use spray insulation instead of replacing the ceiling using similar panels.
“Great acoustics, great thermal — we weren’t going to get any thermal-improvement benefit from the Tectum,” Jacobs said. “We will get both acoustic and thermal benefits from the spray cellulose, and it’s much less expensive.”
With pending paperwork and school still in session, the work would not begin before June 1, Jacobs said, and could take between three and four weeks. She said she did not believe there was any immediate danger to students in the gym, noting that the panel that had begun to sag had shown warning signs and not fallen immediately.
“Unless we have a tornado, unless the building is somehow moved or somebody throws something on the pane — I think that it would have to sustain some type of impact for an entire panel to be dislodged and immediately fall,” Jacobs said.