Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Design not a factor in Pleasant Grove school portico collapse, superintendent says

Published: Tuesday, December 07, 2010, 10:45 PM
The collapse of a portico at Pleasant Grove Elementary School on Monday morning after an ice cream truck crashed into it was a fluke accident and had nothing to do with any flaws in the design of the structure, said Jefferson County school Superintendent Phil Hammonds.

The debris is being cleaned up and the awning will be rebuilt in the new year, he said.

"I don't think it's inherent with the building. It just was an accident," Hammonds said today. "The driver somehow just misjudged, but when he hit it, it just crumbled."

A Blue Bell ice cream delivery truck struck the portico column at the school around 7:30 a.m., just after a busload of students had arrived and entered the building.

The portico was at the side of the building where school buses load and unload students. A fifth-grade class waiting to go on a field trip Monday morning was nearby, but fortunately was waiting inside because of the weather, Hammonds said.

"The cold weather prevented students from hanging out, and we're very thankful and fortunate for that," Hammonds said. "The accident just involved brick and mortar, and that can be replaced."

Rafael McDaniel, director of new construction for Jefferson County schools, said the district is working with the truck driver's insurance company to pay for the repairs. The cost is not yet known, he said.

In the meantime, traffic in and out of the school has been rerouted.

Pleasant Grove Elementary School was built in 1988, and 14 classrooms were added in 2002. The portico was part of the original structure.

McDaniel said that portico design isn't used anymore because it's expensive. However, he said, "that design is actually more sturdy than the ones used now."

"They are pretty structurally sound, but you take a 4-ton truck, and 'bam,' it's going to collapse," he said. "The downside is one of those bricks could have killed a child, and we're very, very fortunate that it didn't."

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