SPRING HILL — The roof support structure for the gymnasium at Fox Chapel Middle School is in need of substantial and potentially expensive repairs as a result of recently discovered water damage, according to a structural engineering report commissioned by the Hernando County School District.
The report, completed June 10, found rusting and other signs of water damage along the south trusses, compromising those supports. While no problems are anticipated under normal conditions, district facility staffers are recommending that the gym not be occupied during sustained high winds, including tornadoes and hurricanes.
That shouldn't pose much of an issue on a day-to-day basis for students, the staff and teachers, said principal Ray Pinder.
"It will kind of be business as usual," he said.
Pinder said the gym, about 32 years old, looks like it is in good shape from the inside.
Sean Arnold, the district's director of facilities, maintenance and security, said the damage was discovered after maintenance staffers noticed water stains on the inside of the building. He said the report found that the building is essentially sound with no imminent danger, but some repairs need to be made.
Those could run upward of $100,000, Arnold said, though a precise estimate was not available.
"It needs to be repaired for the building to fully function at all times in all conditions," he said.
The report says that the function of some of the truss bearing connections has been compromised, weakening them against certain types of force. The structural engineer estimated that the ability to handle downward force at those locations has been reduced to 70 percent or 80 percent of capacity. The ability to handle upward force and shear force has been reduced to 40 percent to 60 percent of capacity.
Arnold said the next step is to get firm estimates on the repair costs and look for funding.
"It's definitely a high priority, and we're looking to fix it," he said. "We want to make sure that the structure can be used. It's a big part of that campus."
School officials will work on an occupancy plan for the 2014-15 school year if the repairs are not completed, a district memo says.
Fox Chapel is also currently listed as a hurricane shelter. Spokesman Eric Williams said the district will collaborate with county emergency management officials to look for an alternative shelter. Pinder said he didn't believe the gym was part of the hurricane evacuation plan.
Fox Chapel's gymnasium is the latest school building in Hernando to require substantial repairs. Earlier this year, School Board members voted to temporarily repair the roof at Westside Elementary School as they prepared plans to replace it over the summer of 2015.
Arnold said Hernando's buildings are getting older, and more issues are likely to crop up because the district doesn't have sufficient money to maintain the structures. The district has significantly reduced its maintenance budget in recent years, deferring millions in repairs.
Contact Danny Valentine at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432. Follow @HernandoTimes.