By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
The Escambia County Board of Education, sitting two members short when the decision was made, approved during a February 2 special called meeting an emergency-declaration resolution that will speed up replacement of weather-damaged flooring in the cafeteria at Escambia County High School.
The damage was caused by the contraction of floor tiles due to a hard freeze that hit the area overnight on January 16 and into January 17. The winter blast caused temperatures to plummet into the teens and brought Arctic winds that created single-digit chill factors.
“During our winter storm we had the frigid, 17-degree temperatures, and it caused some struggles for our floor in that cafeteria,” Interim Superintendent of Education Dr. Michele Collier told BOE members. “Mr. [Shaun] Goolsby will elaborate on all the work they had to do to make it where kids can go in there safely because of exposed and broken tiles.”
Goolsby, deputy director of operations for the county school system, said he has been led to understand that some degree of problem has existed with the floor since the cafeteria was enlarged several years ago.
“This has been an ongoing problem since before we [he and Collier] came here from what I understand,” he said. “What we’re seeing is, when that part of the dining room was added, there were no expansion joints put in the concrete. There’s nowhere for anything to go when it expands or contracts, so it’s bowing up.”
He added that fixing the defective floor was already on his to-do list, but the most recent problem, in which the tiles buckled and created a hazardous situation, made it a more pressing problem.
“We had already planned on doing this work during the summer,” he pointed out. “But with it being a tripping hazard and a safety issue right there at the end of the serving line, we need to go ahead before we have an accident and somebody gets hurt.”
He said school system maintenance crews cordoned off the worst area and patched it with Thin Set, a ceramic tile adhesive, in order to mitigate a tripping hazard.
Jordan Morris, one of four principals of Tuscaloosa-based Ward Scott Morris Architects, attended the meeting, as did intern Sam Carpenter. Morris told BOE members there was no firm foundation upon which the tile was laid.
“What appears to be there is a mud bed,” he explained. “Essentially, the tile was grouted together loosely on top of that, so there has been delamination. We’ll be removing all the tile, making sure we have actual contraction going, then flattening that out and laying new tile.”
The architect told the board the 7,500-square-foot floor replacement project could be started more quickly if an emergency declaration was made.
“Technically, this is an emergency declaration, and that will allow us to expedite the process,” he said. “The design doesn’t take much time, and the bid process and contract procurement allow us to make that happen quicker. We don’t have to do advertisements in the paper, so you will be able to procure prices from three contractors, then select.”
The anticipated cost of the floor replacement, which is set to take place during spring break (March 25-29), is between $168,000 and $180,000. Goolsby said he already had two bids and was expecting a third, which is required by law, later on the day of the meeting.
Goolsby and Morris agreed the new tile, which comes with a floor kit, along with the shoring up of the floor’s undersurface, should give the cafeteria a floor that will last for 25 years.
District 1’s Kevin Hoomes was unable to attend the meeting, and District 7’s Coleman Wallace did not arrive until after the 5-0 vote on the emergency declaration had been recorded.
In other business conducted during the February 2 meeting, BOE members:
*Approved the purchase from Interior Elements LLC of furniture (including library furniture) for the portable buildings placed at Flomaton Elementary School. The total cost ($71,635.77) will be paid from federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.
*Announced that faculty across the system had chosen Option 1: Tuesday, February 20, as a teacher workday to make up for the instructional day lost on January 16. The delayed start to the January 17 school day does not require that teachers make up that day. The other option was to make up for the inclement weather day on Memorial Day.