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The roof at Deans Mill Elementary School in Stonington was installed in 1973 and has had overlays or repairs in the years since. It is leaking in the cafeteria and at spots in the main office, library media center and gym. | (Sun File Photo)

Roof leaks creating a ‘crisis situation’ at Deans Mill

STONINGTON — Daniel Kelley, the president of the PTO at Deans Mill Elementary School, is calling the building’s roof leaks — and the temporary fixes that have been set up to keep the water at bay — “a sad state of affairs.”

The roof was installed in 1973 and has had overlays or repairs in the years since. It is leaking in the cafeteria and at spots in the main office, library media center and gym.

“We’re reaching the breaking point at the school,” Kelley told Board of Education members at their meeting Thursday night. “Something needs to be done sooner than later. We’ve reached a crisis situation and parents are up in arms.”

The board agreed Thursday night to earmark $92,000 in the Capital Improvement Project budget for repairs to the replacement of the roof over the cafeteria.

The Board of Finance must approve the appropriation and will review it in late February, Board of Education Chairman Frank Todisco said.

If approved, the soonest work would start on the roof is July, the beginning of the fiscal year.

“Ever since I started here there’s been a reluctance to ask” the Board of Finance for funds, Superintendent Van W. Riley said. “But when you have plastic bags in the library keeping water from hitting students, we need to get past that.”

The capital budget provides for the replacement of the entire roof at Deans Mill over the next five fiscal years starting with 2014-15, Todisco said.

Replacement of the roof over the gym and library media center will cost an estimated $211,000, and is slated for the 2015-16 fiscal year. The entire roof at Deans Mill is estimated to cost $1.127 million.

“We need to do whatever we have to do to bring this to the Board of Finance and the community,” Riley said.

When Todisco visited Deans Mill in November, several tenting configurations were set up in the cafeteria.

The tenting structures consisted of a square piece of white material, coned, with a clear tube that drained water into a bucket.

Weather has made conditions worse at the school since then, and the tenting contraptions are now set up in the library.

“They look like upside-down parachutes,” Kelley said.

At the request of board member Alisa Morrison, town engineer Lawrence M. Sullivan checked the roof’s structural stability.

Sullivan found the structural steel support system for the roof to be in excellent condition and in “no danger of collapsing,” according to a letter he wrote to the Board of Education dated Jan. 17.

Sullivan found multiple water leaks in the cafeteria, library and gymnasium. Each leak, he wrote, can be attributed to failed flashing around the natural skylights or an area where the roof membrane had either been patched or was simply too old.

“The Stonington school system should seriously consider a roof membrane replacement as soon as financially possible,” Sullivan reported.

Skylights were installed in 2010 in 24 locations throughout the roof. The latest overlays or repairs to the roof over the cafeteria were in 2001-02. The last repairs to the roof over the library media center and gym were in 2000.

According to a roof asset management program that Garland Roof Company completed for Deans Mill Elementary, 2014-15 was the recommended year for the cafeteria’s roof to be replaced; 2015-16 was the recommended year for the roof over the library and gymnasium to be replaced.

An informational session on the Deans Mill roof is scheduled for Tuesday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the school’s library media center. Riley, Todisco, district operations manager Bill King and Deans Mill Principal Doug Hammel will be on hand to answer questions and provide updates on the roof.

“We want to present factual information and dispel the rumors that are circulating,” Todisco said

On Jan. 17, air quality readings were taken in the cafeteria, gym and library. No mold was visible in any of the areas, and all air-quality readings were within range.

While Riley encouraged board members on Thursday to move as quickly as possible on the situation at Deans Mill, he also said he wanted them to consider the future maintenance needs of all the schools in the district.

“It’s not just the cafeteria at Deans Mill, it’s the entire roof,” Riley said, “and it’s not just Deans Mill, we need to get all of our roof systems under control.”

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