McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

September 19, 2013

Work under way for Parker Intermediate Center students to return to the school Monday

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — It’s almost ready —just not on the bottom floor.

Repairs and renovations continued this week at the damaged Parker Intermediate Center in preparation for students to return to the school Monday.

“They are all going to start back on Sept. 23,” said McAlester Public Schools Superintendent Marsha Gore.

As Gore and Deputy Superintendent Ronald Martin walked the halls on the bottom floor of Parker on Tuesday, industrial fans whirred nearby, helping to keep air circulating in the facility.

“We’ve had two structural engineers, one mechanical engineer and one industrial hygienist here,” Gore said, referring to experts called in to inspect Parker. “They’ve given us a ‘good-to-go’ as far as air quality, and it’s structurally sound,” she said of the school building.

When 400 Parker fifth and sixth grade students return to the school Monday, they’ll attend classes on the first floor, the one students walks through at the main entrance.

Inside the building, they’ll find stairwells that lead to the  water-damaged bottom floor blocked by temporary walls put in place while work continues at the school.

Parker Intermediate School has been shut down since Aug. 13 — the day before students were scheduled to return to  school following the summer break.

While students were scheduled to start the fall semester Aug. 14, teachers and other school personnel were inside the building on Aug. 13 when a water main broke, resulting in a rush of water pouring down hallway and into classrooms. Teachers heard cracks as the floor buckled and several windows popped out or broke.

No injuries were reported, but school officials ordered Parker closed.

Since then, fifth grade Parker students have been attending classed at the former Catholic School on the grounds of the St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.

Sixth grade students been attending class at the  McAlester Campus of Eastern Oklahoma State College, as well as some classes at McAlester High School.

Now, with the damaged bottom floor sealed off from student access while repairs and renovations continue, Gore said school officials decided students can return to class at the facility, although the repairs and renovations are expected to continue for some time.

Plans call for four classrooms and the teachers’ lounge on the bottom floor to remain empty while repairs are under way.

In one of the rooms, a math classroom, the floor has been dug up to reveal an exposed water line, which has been disconnected. Gore said it’s been determined that all of the damage resulted from a break in a main water line beneath the floor on the bottom section of Parker Intermediate.

It’s already been replaced and the line now supplying water to the bottom part of the school no longer runs under the floor, Gore said.

While work on the damaged rooms is under way, students will attend classes on the school’s main floor and in two portable buildings that are already in place to temporarily take the place of the bottom floor classrooms not in use, Gore said.

“After these rooms are done, we’ll move everyone back,” Gore said, standing next to a pile of dirt where a broken pipe had been uncovered,

Workers were busy this week on the portable buildings which will be utilized as classrooms. Both have new floors, a new paint job and air conditioning window units.

Parents or guardians of students who attend Parker will have an opportunity to see the school before the students return on Monday, Gore said.

A parent-teacher conference is set at Parker today from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. and on Friday from 8 a.m. until noon, she said.

That will give parents and guardians a chance to walk the halls before and visit the classrooms before the students do.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.