Partial roof collapse closes Hancock schools

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette No injuries were sustained when section of a roof of the Barkell Elementary School collapsed Wednesday night under the weight of heavy rain on heavy snow, which also caused the wall beneath that section to bow outward. The building was unoccupied at the time.

HANCOCK — A section of the roof on the rear portion of the Barkell Elementary School collapsed sometime overnight Wednesday, prompting school officials to have elementary school buses re-routed to the middle and high schools on Campus Drive Thursday morning.

Superintendent Kipp Beaudoin said maintenance personnel discovered the structural failure just after 6 a.m. and notified school officials of the issue, but by the time school officials arrived and assessed the situation, it was too late to cancel classes.

The first consideration was the safety of the students and not having them in the building until engineers could inspect the entire building, The second consideration, said Beaudoin, was to allow parents as much time as possible to make adjustments to their schedules as a result of an early dismissal.

“We did not have the bus drivers drop (the students) off here,” Beaudoin said. “They were dropped off at the middle school and high school.Then students were dismissed from the high school and middle school, because we lost the day anyway, so the goal was once students were on the bus or at the bus stops, sending out any type of message at all if, parents were on their way to work, that would have created too much confusion.”

The roofs had been shoveled off about three weeks ago, Beaudoin said, but with the storm last weekend, there were high winds and heavy drifting. The section of the roof that collapsed is a high drift area, because it is beneath the main roof of the school building. The snow load on the roof, combined with heavy rains Wednesday night is believed to be what caused the structure failure.

“Certainly, if you look at the roof, you can see there’s a drift there,” said Beaudoin, “and with the rain last night, it probably created too much weight.”

Personnel from OHM Advisors of Hancock were on the scene to assess damage early Thursday morning, and a building inspector from that firm was scheduled to be on site at 10 a.m. Thursday.

“I want to thank the city,” Beaudoin said, “law enforcement, public works. OHM came over immediately and offered their assistance to us, and again the community has rallied, and we’re really appreciative.”

Later in the morning, the Superintendent’s Office announced school in the elementary, middle and high schools are canceled for Friday.