Alamance-Burlington school board members voted 6-0 Monday night to ask Alamance County commissioners to allocate $302,681 in capital reserve funding for roofing design work and engineering services in order to repair leaks at Eastern High and Graham Middle schools.
The capital reserve funding for those two roofing projects that ABSS intends to ask the commissioners to allocate is on top of another $9 million in capital funding that the school system intends to request from the commissioners at their next meeting on November 4 (see related story, this edition).
ABSS chief operations officer Greg Hook told school board members that, over the past two years, 42 work orders had been submitted to his department for “roof leaks at Eastern High School across different sections of the building.”
Hook also showed school board members an aerial photograph of Eastern High School, depicting several rooftops on which he said water is pooling – including the newest one that was installed on the newly-expanded cafeteria in 2021.
The cafeteria expansion and new roof, along with other renovations at Eastern totaled $11.6 million and was funded was funded by proceeds from the $150 million bond package voters approved for ABSS in 2018.
At the same time, Hook was quick to point out that some of the problematic portions of the roofs at Eastern High School are nearly 30 years old.
“When we talk about the roof, it’s a whole bunch of roofs,” Hook told the board Monday night.
Pointing to “darker roof sections,” the COO said, “Lots of ballast stones have been moved off of the [synthetic roofing membranes]; you’ve got lots of leaks in these kinds of sections.
“Just in the past two years, we’ve had 42 work orders for roof leaks at Eastern High School across different sections of the building,” Hook said. “If you look at the darker rooftops, you can see the rooftop air conditioning units. They were put up on these roofs 28 years ago, hadn’t been taken down, so these roofs are at least 28 years old – all these darker sections that you see.”
“The white sections don’t look that great to me,” said school board member Chuck Marsh.
“That’s something the engineering company would look at and evaluate all the sections in the process,” Hook said.
“The bond addition is in this picture,” the COO pointed out Monday night. “We reroofed the cafeteria as part of the bond project. You’ve heard me mention before, with flat roofs and pooling, we get concerned when you have flat roofs and pooling. [For] lots of these smaller-span roofs, our plan with the designer is to put a metal-pitched roof – a low pitch and a metal roof which, to us, would be a lifetime roof. But on some of the larger roofs, you cannot do that.
“You can see already, with the section that was redone over the cafeteria two years ago as part of the bond, we do have pooling,” Hook added. “When this picture was taken, some of these areas still had water in them.”
School board vice chairman Ryan Bowden asked, “That’s two years old?”
Yes, Hook confirmed, referring to the roof over the cafeteria that was replaced as part of the renovation and expansion funded by a portion of the proceeds the 2018 bond package.
“Currently, our system construction attorney is discussing this with me,” Hook added. “We have the same problem at Western High School with the roof on their cafeteria.”
“All of our drain system and gutter system is good, so it’s not causing that?” Bowden asked.
“No sir,” Hook said. “You can see the drains in the roof. The water’s supposed to be tapered to get the water to the drain, but you can see the drain at the lower right corner; the pool of water is away from the drain, so it’s dry away from the drain. These designs for this roof were not done by REI; this was done by the designer that worked on the bond project.”
School board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves asked Hook, “What do we do with this?”
Hook said, “We’re trying to get the architect and the contractor in a roof to discuss this. Part of the design would be what goes underneath the membrane to guide the water to the drains.” Pinnacle Architects of Matthews had been hired in June 2019 to design renovations and expansions at bother Eastern and Western high schools that were part of the 2018 bond package.
Ongoing roof leaks had been reported for years at multiple schools. ABSS officials later attributed many of those leaks to a defective roofing material, thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO), a single-ply membrane used underneath the top layer of roofing.
That issue later resulted in ABSS receiving an $890,000 settlement in 2018 from a lawsuit against Dow Roofing Systems to repair roofs at five of the affected schools (Broadview Middle, E.M. Holt Elementary, Graham Middle, Cummings High, and the former alternative school, Sellars-Gunn Education Center in Burlington), though numerous leaks have been reported for years at other ABSS schools.
School board members subsequently voted 6-0 Monday night to authorize the administration to ask the county commissioners to allocate $177,800 in capital reserve funding for roofing design work by REI Engineers, which is headquartered in Virginia and has three offices in North Carolina.
The board also voted unanimously to ask the commissioners for an additional $124,881 in capital reserve funding that Hook said is needed “to meet the lowest bid” on another roofing project at Graham Middle School. He said that work requires repairs to multiple sections of roofing but didn’t give specifics.
A total of $302,681 in capital reserve funding will likely be requested from the commissioners at their next meeting on November 4, based on Hook’s discussion with the board.