A survey completed by Bennett & Pless Inc. brought the dome’s lack of structural integrity to light.
Cleveland Board of Education members realized the depth of the issue when firm President Rex Pless gave his report.
He said certain limitations would apply to the building if it was kept open.
“For example, any time a wind strength of over 30 mph is anticipated, we recommend the gym be closed. If there is going to be 2 inches or more of snow or ice, we would recommend the gym be closed,” Pless said. “Third, if we notice, as we monitor the cracks in the masonry walls of the gym, any significant movement in those, we would recommend the gym be closed permanently.”
The findings were gathered over three extended visits by three of the consulting firm’s top engineers.
According to Pless, a heavy load would significantly overstress at least 50 percent of the roof’s timber.
He explained the cracks in both the masonry wall and brick veneer are rather significant, with most at a 1-inch offset. Many of the exterior cracks are within inches of major interior cracks.
Pless said the dome’s overall construction was faulty.
“The roof when it was originally installed was not adequate,” Pless said. “All of the steel posts and rods you see were added during the construction phase by the people who originally built it.”
Certain portions of the wall have begun to show visible strain from the weight of the roof. In addition to the cracks, these include bulging and the shifting of brick. This is due to the lack of internal support, like rebar, in the walls, the consultants found.
The board approved a contingency plan issued by school administrators when the report first came to light.
Principal Autumn O’Bryan pointed out the dome facilities were used for more than sporting events and schoolwide meetings. She said the gym and six lower-level classrooms held 300 to 400 students every class period. School administrators made strategic decisions to fit the classes into the building’s remaining instructional space.
The transition filled the school’s last empty classroom.
“We are certainly tightening up. We are not over capacity by any means,” O’Bryan said. “We are at the point where our space is limited, and we have to be very selective with where we move people and what we do with them.”
Classes moved out included: physical education, wellness classes, aerobics, weight training, personal fitness, driver education and electives like leadership.
Teachers were allowed to clean out their classrooms prior to Christmas break. Items were moved from the dome facilities to additional storage space inside the school and in two external units. Weight room equipment was split between the football field house, the Jones Wrestling Center and the two storage units.
A majority of the classes were moved into the science wing, the wrestling center and two rooms near the old junior high gym.
Director of City Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff requested remaining funds set aside for the survey on the dome’s structural integrity instead be used for 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 site committee, which operates through the school board, agreed to the request.
Physical education classes conducted in the old junior high gym require male and female locker rooms. City school maintenance workers began renovations on the old junior high cafeteria to meet the need. The space was used for offices and storage prior to the transitions.
Teachers from across the building pitched in to help their peers move out of the dome’s facilities.
“The teachers have been just awesome,” O’Bryan said. “Teachers in other departments helped them during their planning period last week. I would go down there and there would be English teachers and math teachers carrying what they could to help them.”
Future plans for the dome and subsequent gym will be discussed at the Jan. 6 session of the Cleveland Board of Education.