Raider Dome cracks irreparable
by DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
Dec 11, 2013 | 2356 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Cleveland Board of Education’s site committee agreed Tuesday the cracks compromising the structural integrity of Cleveland High School’s Raider Dome are irrepairable.

The committee’s decision was based on the preliminary survey completed by Bennett & Pless Inc.

At a recent school board session, the engineering consultant’s president, Rex Pless, stated three of the firm’s top engineers identified significant movement in the cracks found in the walls of the dome.

Cleveland City Schools Director Dr. Martin Ringstaff spoke for the legitimacy of the firm’s findings at the committee meeting. He said the firm, “does not have a dog in this fight.” Bennett & Pless Inc. is often asked to present studies and investigations of existing structures, like the Raider Dome. The firm’s services will not be used in the design or construction of another gym.

Ringstaff informed the committee the agreement with the firm was frozen after the board agreed to shut down the dome. Sufficient information was found in the initial findings of Bennett & Pless Inc. to discontinue additional surveys.

Committee members agreed the dome will eventually need to be torn down. The process will involve several steps in order to take down both the infrastructure and structure. According to director of maintenance and transportation Hal Taylor, there is not a quick fix. Local construction company Tri-Conn Inc. has already been contacted to give suggestions on the next step.

Board member Richard Shaw expressed an interest in taking care of the issue as soon as possible. Committee members passed a recommendation to be presented before the board in January for Upland Design to be considered for the architect position as work with the dome moves forward.

Ringstaff recommended the money set aside for the surveys be used instead at the high school.

“The move within Cleveland High is going to cost us money. It is not as simple as a teacher moving to another room. We are going to have electrical and technology needs,” Ringstaff said. “It does cost us money that is not budgeted.”

The board allocated roughly $26,000 to the study of the dome’s structural integrity. Only $6,000 to $12,000 was used to finance the initial surveys. Ringstaff requested the remaining funds be used for costs incurred during the transition and implementation of the new classrooms.

Principal Autumn O’Bryan said the recent dome shutdown is about more than just athletics.

“As we are building and talking about the next 50 years, we need to think about [classroom space],” O’Bryan said. “Everyone thinks about basketball and sports, but this is really about classrooms.”

All classes and activities have been moved out of the Raider Dome and its basement. The two areas held on average 400 students during every time block of the day. These students and teachers have since been moved to other areas of the building. The wellness classes are now set up around and within the old middle school gym.

O’Bryan and Assistant Principal Cliff Eason said the high school is officially out of classrooms.

“We were really out of classroom space before this happened. At our last meeting we talked about this and we said we had one classroom left, basically,” Eason said. “Well, we’ve moved a wellness classroom in there and other people are combining spaces where we have teachers in with other teachers.”

He said the school is more than out of space at this point.

O’Bryan and Eason requested the next gym built be able to fit 2,500 to 3,000 students. The dome can only fit 1,500. The gym capacity presented issues as the student population continued to grow.