School board members and administrators in Forest Park were rightfully upset to learn that the walls of the middle school gymnasium are coming apart. The reaction from board members, who learned of the problem during a June 11 meeting, was apparently identical to that of administrators who got the bad news in April – let’s sue somebody.
According to a series of reports released by the district’s architect, the gym was poorly designed. Its walls should be substantially thicker. The drawings from 1985, when most of the middle school was constructed, lack detail. Such ambiguity has fueled speculation that, perhaps, the walls aren’t sufficiently reinforced. Wind, according to the architect, is responsible for cracking and bending the gym’s walls.
It is simply too early to say whether the district could rightfully hold a third party responsible for the cost of fixing what appears to be a dire situation. However, we understand that school administrators will be making a few phone calls and doing a little digging to see what legal remedies may be available. Good idea.
It’s entirely possible that the gym was built to meet the applicable standards of the day, and that school officials simply made use of the least expensive options. If this is the case, it would probably be difficult to recoup the expense of fixing the walls. Given that this is the great state of Illinois – where there’s apparently no end to costly shenanigans – it is at least worth trying to confirm this.
It would also be worthwhile for the district to spend a little money and have the rest of the building checked out. If the entire middle school was added to Field-Stevenson in 1985, who’s to say that the same shoddy workmanship found in the gymnasium doesn’t translate elsewhere. A home economics classroom on the northwest corner of the building is experiencing similar cracking and is also in need of repair, according to the district’s architect.
Being blindsided by costly repairs is not fun, and forces the district to shift spending from other priorities. Let’s take a second look.