Who’s to blame for leaky schools?
TAMPA - Hillsborough County school board members aren’t happy with having to pay about $2 million to fix two leaky schools that have been open only a handful of years. “Generally, when we pay for a building, we expect one that works,” said Candy Olson. “I would like somebody to highlight the defects and explain the efforts to recoup the costs.” Oak Park and Deer Park elementary schools have been experiencing water intrusion for years, school district officials say. Deer Park opened its doors in 2006; Oak Park was the next year. The two schools cost the district more than $24 million to build. Board members questioned if it would have been possible for district employees to have noticed deficiencies in the buildings before they opened.“I’m trying to get a grip on how this could have been avoided,” said board member Susan Valdes. “It seems like there are a lot of experts that we the district hire.” “It’s not that the inspector didn’t do his job. We never intend to purchase a building that leaks,” said Cathy Valdes, who is no relation to the board member and serves as director of facilities for the district. “That’s just not acceptable. Yes, it could have been avoided.” “We know what the problems are,” Cathy Valdes said. “We don’t know who to assign the blame to.” The problem with both buildings, the facilities director said, is that the stucco did not adhere to the concrete block. Inspectors found cracks when the schools were built, she said, but were told the cracks were cosmetic and not structural. The cracks were more serious than that, though. “Water just sought the cracks and has traveled throughout the buildings,” Cathy Valdes said. “We don’t want to go through one more rainy season with these problems.” The district has filed suit to try to get the repair costs recovered from The Architectural Practice Inc. and Ellis Construction Co. In other matters, the board: Wrestled again with the timing of when the names of teachers accused of misconduct should be put on the agenda. While Doretha Edgecomb said she was looking for a combination of transparency and fairness, Carol Kurdell said it’s not the board’s job to give the media stories. “The press gets paid. They’re supposed to dig for the stories,” Kurdell said. Voted to name the fieldhouse at Armwood High School after the late Bill McBride. Appointed a new principal for Dover Elementary. Kayla Forcucci, currently an assistant principal at Thonotosassa Elementary, was picked to lead the school.