BEND, Ore. - A heavy load of snow led to the collapse of the nearly 70-year-old gymnasium at Kenwood Elementary School on Bend's Westside early Thursday, which led to the immediate closure of all schools in the district for structural inspections. Redmond followed suit later in the day and Sisters Thursday night, all to be closed until next Tuesday.
Reports of heavy snow collapsing the roof came in around 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
“This has probably seen many dozens of snowstorms in its life, and every one of them makes it a tiny bit weaker,” said Bend Fire Battalion Chief Dave Howe.
A crowd watched as the building was demolished later in the afternoon. School district officials said they are now inspecting all roofs throughout the district, which will remain closed until next Tuesday. So will Redmond and Sisters schools, after similar issues arose with leaks and snow loading on roofs.
“All of our buildings have been regularly maintained," said Bend-La Pine Schoolst spokeswoman Julianne Repman. "We’ve been up on the roofs of these buildings, and the buildings are all built to code at the time. And if there are any infrastructure changes made, those are also made to code.”
The era in which the gym was built, in 1950, concerned some parents during the demolition.
"There’s no way there’s not asbestos tile and other things in that building. You can’t just implode a building full of asbestos. It gets airborne,” said Bill Wardlow, a parent of a current student at the school, now a Scottish storyline magnet school called Highland Elementary.
Authorities said the damage was beyond repair, and wanted to tear it down quickly because the walls were buckling and unstable, posing a serious safety hazard..
Many in the crowd were previous students who came to see their former gym one last time.
“I remember a lot of good memories with my friends and just learning a lot," aid Drexell Barres. "I had P.E. and I did assemblies, and it was just so much fun. I miss it still to this day."