Seven Alamance-Burlington schools experienced multiple new roof leaks as a result of the massive storm system that rolled through the region Tuesday, and those repairs will need to be made immediately in order to prevent a return of the mold that ultimately cost more than $27 million to remediate this past fall, ABSS officials say.
School officials are planning to submit a written report to the county once all-storm-related damages have been assessed, ABSS public information officer Les Atkins told The Alamance News Wednesday morning while touring the damage at Graham High School.
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While the public information officer said it’s still too soon to determine whether – and how much money – ABSS might need to ask the county commissioners for in order to repair any storm-related damage, the school system’s administrators issued a statement Tuesday night, which said, in part, that the storm had “exacerbated these ongoing issues as a result of inadequate funding” by the county.
In the short term, Atkins said hundreds of acoustic ceiling tiles will need to be replaced in the seven schools where new roof leaks have been attributed to Tuesday’s storm.
Atkins said that Greg Hook, who is the chief operations officer for ABSS but was not present during the tour at Graham High School, had informed him that “we need to get the [damaged] ceiling tiles down – we don’t want to leave these things to just sit” because the moisture could cause mold to return.
Crews from the ABSS facilities maintenance department conducted an initial assessment of schools late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, said Atkins. “This morning, it was about making sure floors were mopped,” he added.
Multiple trash barrels and wastebaskets were staggered throughout hallways and near doorways to catch dripping water; and water was pooling on tile floors in several classrooms at Graham High School.
“When we got here, there was standing water,” Atkins said during a tour of Graham High School Wednesday morning. “Right now, we got the water up, and we’re drying things out.” He said the next step will be to bring in dehumidifiers that ABSS purchased during the mold remediation process last fall and has kept in storage for the last few months.
Ceilings inside several classrooms – as well as a portion of the auditorium – at Graham High School apparently had new leaks from Tuesday’s storm, Atkins said during the tour, pointing out several areas where ceilings had been cut to remove mold last fall, still hadn’t been fully repaired, and began leaking this week.
Roof leaks were also discovered Wednesday inside Graham High School’s welding lab, which had just been renovated last year as part of the $150 million bond package voters approved for ABSS in 2018.
Graham High School and Haw River Elementary School were hit the hardest, after multiple new leaks sprang up during and after Tuesday’s storm, Atkins said. He told the newspaper that Cummings High School and Broadview Middle School – where ongoing leaks had been reported for years – appeared to have been spared of any significant damage from the storm.
Additional leaks also have been reported this week at B.E. Jordan Elementary School – as well at Eastern High School, South Mebane Elementary School, Western Middle School, and Western High School, all of which underwent substantial renovations as part of the 2018 bond package for ABSS.
However, no roof repairs for Graham High School, where leaks had long been reported, were included in the 2018 bond package, school officials confirmed for the newspaper later Wednesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Hook told school board members late last fall that at least 42 work orders had been submitted for roofing repairs at Eastern High School – to include leaks in the newest roof, on the expanded cafeteria, which was installed in 2021 as part of $11.6 million in repairs and renovations at Eastern that were funded by the 2018 bond package.
Alamance County’s commissioners voted in early December to allocate additional capital funding to ABSS to begin design work for roofing repairs at Eastern High School, as well as to fund any emergency building repairs that might arise.
The principal at Haw River Elementary had submitted a work order for about a third of that school’s ceiling tiles by Wednesday morning, Atkins said, noting that school is scheduled to have several portions of its roof replaced starting next month. [A $1.3 million contract with Bar Roofing of Kernersville for the roof repairs at Haw River Elementary was to have been presented for a vote Tuesday afternoon during the school board’s work session, which was canceled due to the impending storm.]
The public information officer said that Mitchell Roofing was scheduled to assess the extent of the damage at Graham High School on Wednesday. Also on site at the high school Wednesday morning were contractor vehicles from three other roofing companies: Owens Roofing, Triad Roofing, and Tecta America.
In the statement they issued Tuesday night, ABSS officials acknowledged that millions had been invested to remediate mold “that has been present” in schools for years. At the same time, they said, “We cannot afford to take steps backwards. Adequate funding for roofs, water intrusion, and HVAC [systems] must be considered by the county to prevent this from happening again. The aftermath from this storm is just one example that shows the need for increased support.”
In its statement, ABSS officials noted, “[The] average age of our buildings is 56 years old. We have to keep pouring resources into them – mopping floors, replacing ceiling tiles, etc. until funding is secured from the Alamance County commissioners to correct these issues.”
ABSS schools opened on a two-hour delay Wednesday morning, which school officials attributed to roof leaks inside schools, downed trees on some bus routes, and roadway flooding near ABSS schools.