Contractors interested in the Cleveland High gymnasium demolition project gathered at the school for a mandatory pre-bid meeting Thursday afternoon.
Upland Design Group architect Brian Templeton led the meeting. Board of Education members George Meacham, Richard Shaw, Dawn Robinson and Murl Dirksen attended the meeting alongside city school administrators.
Templeton explained the basics and expectations of the project before opening the floor for questions.
About 10 contractors joined the conference. As of Thursday afternoon, four had signed up for the project. Those contractors will place a bid for both the demolition of the Raider Dome and construction of the new gymnasium.
Templeton will receive the bids and determine the best project at the lowest price. He will make his recommendation at the May 5 school board meeting. The board will then make a decision.
Following the award of the bid, the timeline of events will occur in a quick, successive manner.
Demolition contractors will gain control of the building on May 12. Demolition will begin on May 23. Estimates suggest the current gym will be a pile of dirt by July 25.
Dawn Robinson has served on the Board of Education for 19 years. She said the board has kept an eye on the cracks since 2000. Early reports wrote the fissures off as cosmetic.
“The bricks were not buckling then,” Robinson said. “There was no sign from the outside anything was wrong. They looked at the cracks and said it was water damage.”
Board members reportedly sought the opinion of another professional source roughly five years ago. At the time, the wooden beams spanning the ceiling of the Dome were splintering. The school system hired a local architectural firm to address the issue through the installation of ceiling cables.
It was once again reported the cracks were merely cosmetic.
“We all believed there were structural supports inside of the concrete blocks,” Robinson said. “Until [the survey completed by Bennett & Pless Inc.] last fall really tore into the blueprints. They saw there was nothing inside of the concrete bricks.”
Continued Robinson, “I was shocked there was no support. You would think they would pour concrete in some of the blocks or there would be [rebar]. I was shocked when there was not such a thing.”
The report provided by Bennett & Pless Inc. carried heavy warnings.
President Rex Pless outlined the limitations and dangers of the dome.
“For example, any time a wind strength of over 30 mph is anticipated, we recommend the gym be closed,” he said at the time. “If there is going to be 2 inches or more of snow or ice, we would recommend the gym be closed. Third, if we notice, as we monitor the cracks in the masonry walls of the gym, any significant movement in those, we would recommend the gym be closed permanently.”
School administrators responded to the report with an immediate shutdown. Students were not allowed to enter the dome and basement premises. Teachers were allotted approximately two weeks to clear out classrooms.
Director of City Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff said he is excited about the progress made on the project.
“It is exciting we will have a gymnasium complex for the students at Cleveland High, and for the community of Cleveland City Schools that they can be proud of,” he said. “Right now, this has served its purpose and it is at its last legs.”