WOODWARD, Okla. —
Woodward school board met in a special meeting today to declare an emergency regarding efforts to restore Woodward Middle School north campus after a weekend fire gutted the electrical system and destroyed the roof covering much of the building.
Meanwhile, three blocks south of the Board of Education building, flecks of fiberglass hovered in the air as masked workers with TRC Disaster Solutions toiled inside the fire-damaged school.
The process to restore the school to a condition that would allow its use could take several weeks, said TRC foreman Norman Hughes.
TRC Disaster Solutions is a Tulsa-based company that has been instrumental in catastrophic disaster recoveries throughout the nation, said Hughes.
“The process is long,” Hughes said.
He stood in the smoky remains of the school hallway as workers cleaned, swept, removed insulation and installed ventilation systems.
“People are usually really glad to see us come, but because the process can be so long, they are glad to see us go, too,” Hughes said.
The company and its workers have been slogging through the damaged school since Saturday.
TRC arrived early in the afternoon just after the school’s insurance provider summoned them. The fire likely was caused by a lightning strike to the main transformer, said Woodward Interim Superintendent Kyle Reynolds.
The fire caused the eviction of Woodward County Extension Service, temporary tenants in the portion of the school that has not been in use of late. And the disaster threatens to cause some wrinkles for administrators trying to provide classroom space this fall when school begins again in an already burgeoning building, Reynolds said.
But before all of those issues can begin to be solved, official steps had to be taken to declare an emergency, Reynolds said today in a special emergency meeting called for that purpose.
In the meeting, school board members surveyed photos of charred roofing structures, false ceilings and a burned out electrical system in the old main building.
The board voted to declare an emergency to legally enable insurance companies to coordinate restoration efforts and collaborate with general contract manager Joe D. Hall on how best to move forward, considering the scheduled renovations related to the school and a recent bond issue.
The photos caused school board member Glenn Billing to wonder if the building should be demolished. However, that is not the conclusion reached by construction staff working the case, Reynolds said.
More meetings will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday with engineers, architects and the school’s construction manager regarding the best way to move forward, Reynolds said.
“Our first objective though, is to be able to plan on reoccupying that south building for the five classrooms this fall and put the other three classes in the south campus,” Reynolds said.
While all of the electrical wiring throughout the building was impacted, there have been initial plans that could allow a limited, temporary connection to power the building for the needed classrooms this fall, Reynolds said.
He also said a company also agreed to help set up a temporary communication wiring system that would allow computers to be used in that portion of the school.
The most significant damage to the school is mostly contained in the old portion of the north campus, Reynolds said. This portion of the building had numerous false ceilings that trapped the fire causing it to burn horizontally, he said. The fire was encouraged in this portion of the building because the entire decking of the roof was made of wood, he said.
The newest additions, the far south end of the building and the furthest west addition are in relatively fair shape, Reynolds said. While they both suffered smoke damage, they are buildings constructed with steel roof decking and more updated materials.
It is here, where Reynolds hopes to be able to hold classes this fall.
There is no estimate yet on the total cost of the restoration, Reynolds said.
“We will have to wait till we meet tomorrow,” he said today. “But the biggest expense, by far I think, will be the electrical restoration because it destroyed the whole system throughout the building.”
Van Horn writes for the Woodward News.