SPRING HILL — Westside Elementary School, though still in need of millions of dollars in repairs, is structurally sound and poses no immediate threat to student safety, per an engineering report commissioned by the Hernando County School District.
"We do not have an imminent danger of a roof collapse," said facilities director Roland "Bo" Bavota.
Earlier this week, the district received a report from Amore Engineering of Orlando, stating that the structural components of the roof are in good shape. The biggest issue the firm found was "a little bit of rust" from water leakage.
In a letter to parents, Superintendent Lori Romano said students and families will "continue to participate in a full range of programs and services on Westside Elementary's campus through the end of the current school year."
But there was some bad news.
Although the support structure is fine, the roof itself is considered "failed" because it leaks and cannot shed water, Bavota said.
"It still needs to be replaced," he said. A failed roof can pose a danger because water can seep into the building, get into electrical fixtures and cause ceiling tiles to collapse, which has already happened.
"It's still a danger to students from the perspective of the ceiling tiles, but we're not going to have a roof collapse," he said. "That was the main issue."
In addition to the assessment by the structural engineers, Bavota said experts with Allied Roofing checked the roof to see if it could be repaired rather than replaced.
The verdict: It is beyond repair, he said.
Bavota said the roof is in bad enough shape that "students should not be in that building next year."
School officials say it will cost roughly $3.7 million to replace the roof and the school's air-handling system, which sits on top of it.
On Friday, Bavota estimated it would take roughly 44 weeks from start to finish to replace the roof and air system, including the time for design, bidding, ordering equipment and construction.
At a School Board workshop earlier this month, board members received a report on Westside's condition and discussed a range of options. The choices include replacing the school's roof and air-handling system, razing and rebuilding the school, or closing it altogether.
The School Board will consider the options at a workshop on May 6.
Numerous Westside parents and community members have voiced their opposition to closing the school.
Danny Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432.