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Jefferson City Public Schools: No rush to rebuild Simonsen

Jefferson City Public Schools: No rush to rebuild Simonsen

June 30th, 2019 by Phillip Sitter in Local News
Photos taken in the immediate days after the May 22 tornado document some of the damage inside Simonsen 9th Grade Center.

Simonsen's last day as a ninth-grade center was May 22; school let out in the day, and a tornado hit it that night.

The EF-3 tornado ripped off much of the roof, shattered most of the windows and exposed the interior of the building to rain.

While the first phase of recovery in the building is just about done, Jefferson City Public Schools did not yet know last week how much the damage will cost to fully fix and what might be the future for the building.

Frank Underwood, JCPS director of facilities and transportation and safety and security coordinator, said last week that insurance coverage "will hopefully take care of anything that was damaged" at Simonsen.

Those insurance assessments are ongoing, he said, and JCPS has not yet talked numbers with insurance assessors.

Until it's known what will be covered by the district's property insurance coverage, provided through Winter-Dent & Company, it won't be known when contracts for work could be bid out, he said.

But that's not to say there's not been work going on at Simonsen since the tornado — quite the opposite.

Within the first few hours and days after the tornado that peeled away sections of Simonsen's roof and shattered most of its windows, ServiceMaster crews patched the roof to keep rain from coming in, Underwood said.

The 178 windows that were broken have also since been boarded up, he said.

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With the roof sealed, work began to dry out the building, including removing wet ceiling tiles and bringing in temporary drying units.

Underwood said 50-60 people were involved, and that ServiceMaster was still on site, continuing to dry out the building to prevent mold from taking hold.

He said technology, textbooks and good furniture were moved out of the building to storage by May 28; teachers also reclaimed their personal items from storage after their classrooms were boxed up and taken out of Simonsen.

Except for the third floor — which is sealed off, due to more significant damage — the building is cooling itself with air conditioning, and power is on in the basement, first and second floors.

Underwood said Simonsen is structurally sound, but "there's a lot of roof work left to do." He said, "We're not in a mode of needing this building," and because of that, future contracted work could be spread out into the winter to get better bids.

JCPS Superintendent Larry Linthacum told the district's Board of Education in November that there was no immediate pressure to determine Simonsen's future before the coming school year, especially because Capital City High School students might need Simonsen's gym space. The second high school's gyms are not set to be complete until later in the fall, after Capital City's planned opening in August.

JCPS Director of Communications Ryan Burns said last week that Robert Ndessokia, Capital City High School's activities director, said CCHS students and teams will use Thomas Jefferson Middle School's gym for practice and other activities at the start of school.

CCHS activities department is also working with Lincoln University and Jefferson City's Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department to identify additional space, if needed.