Roof collapse aftermath: Sisters schools join Friday closure

Many schools close for roof checks, snow removal

Bend school gym demolished after roof collapse

BEND, Ore. - The gymnasium roof collapsed at Highland Magnet School at Kenwood Elementary on Bend's Westside early Thursday, prompting an immediate closure of all Bend-La Pine schools for two days to conduct roof assessments, later joined by Redmond and Sisters schools..

The remains of the building were demolished later in the day.

Redmond closed its schools early Thursday afternoon, through the weekend, out of caution as roof leaks were on the rise and inspections were underway.

Thursday evening, the Sisters School District said it, too, was closing its buildings "for further structural assessment and snow removal" until next Tuesday "or until buildings have been deemed structurally safe."

In all three school districts, home athletic contests and other activities also were canceled but ones held elsewhere were proceeding as planned.

Other Friday closures for rooftop snow removal or similar reasons include the Sisters Christian Academy, Trinity Lutheran School, St. Thomas Academy of Redmond and Waldorf School of Bend. Among those scheduled to be open: Crook and Jefferson County schools and St. Francis of Assisi in Bend.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Bend also will be closed through Monday, officials said.

Newport Avenue was closed for much of the day, until the standing walls were demolished due to the safety hazard.

"No one was inside the 67-year-old gym at the time of the collapse," the school district stated in an announcement on its Website.

Roof collapses have been on the rise across the region after days of heavy, wet snow piled up on roofs of homes, businesses and other structures.

Here's the text of their notice, in full:

."ALL SCHOOLS CLOSED Thursday, Jan. 12. Roof collapse at Highland Magnet at Kenwood School gym prompts emergency closure of all schools to allow for roof assessments district-wide. No one was inside the gym at the time of the roof collapse.

"Parents of bus riders, your student will be transported to school. Please pick up your student as soon as possible. Checkout using usual attendance systems. Again, please pick up your student as soon as possible.

"All staff will leave schools and report back home after students are clear of the building.

"Bend-La Pine Schools classes and activities will be canceled tomorrow, Friday, January 13 as well.

"Thank you for your support and understanding. Your students’ safety is paramount."

Officials said it's believed the collapse happened overnight and was discovered by the first staff to arrive Thursday morning, before classes were scheduled to begin around 9 a.m.

Detours were in place, with westbound traffic diverted to Portland Avenue at Fifth Street; and eastbound traffic to Portland Avenue at Ninth Street.

In an early Thursday afternoon update, Bend-La Pine Schools said all schools had been cleared and closed, and several with "potential roof load issues" were being assessed, including the downtown Education Center, Buckingham Elementary, one building at Juniper Elementary, La Pine High School and Jewell Elementary.

School maintenance crews have been out the last several days clearing roofs and checking on drains.

At first, Redmond closed M.A. Lynch Elementary as a precautionary measure to assess the snow load on the roof. Parents were notified to pick up students affected by the closure.

But just before 2 p.m. came word that Redmond schools decided to close early and cancel Friday classes, meaning school won't resume until Tuesday, after the Martin Luther King Jr. break.

They said they were doing so "out of caution for student and staff safety."

"After ongoing review of facilities, and increased incidents of roof leaks throughout the day, it has been determined that it’s best to remove staff and students from the buildings," the announcement said.

"Although we believe students are not in immediate danger, we are choosing to err on the side of caution and safety," they said.

Thursday morning, Bend Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki said Newport Avenue was closed because of concern the front wall of the gym might collapse toward the street and send debris in that direction.

Roads by schools across the school district quickly became clogged with cars of parents going to pick up children after a brief time at school.

There was no apparent impact to the nearby brick school building, the oldest in the district in continuous use of a school. The separate gym building was built in 1950.

Kenwood School opened in the fall of 1919 and is currently home of Highland Elementary, a Scottish Storyline magnet school. 

Sisters School Superintendent Curtiss Scholl sent a message to parents and staff, saying a Bend engineering firm recently inspected all buildings and that based on that and physical inspections, they will keep school in session.

"We will continue to conduct regular physical inspections, and at any time we feel it is unsafe for students and staff, we will cancel school immediately," he wrote.

COCC, meanwhile, said it's checked roofs for snow weight and cleared rains in anticipation of melting snow, as part of its regular monitoring of facilities.

"Buildings in Central Oregon are engineered to function in the regional weather conditions, though recent events have shown there can be failures," the college's note stated. "In some instances, we have removed snow from building roof areas to allow mechanical systems to operate properly."

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