Leaking roof closes 10 classrooms at Valley High School

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, 12:48 p.m.

A leaking roof was causing a stink inside and outside Valley High School on Friday.

New Kensington-Arnold School District officials said melting snow and rain took a toll on the aging roof over the high school's south wing, resulting in multiple leaks.

About 140 of the school's 550 students were moved out of the 10 classrooms and lockers there to other parts of the school, Principal Jon Banko said.

Banko said they may be kept out of the wing for the rest of the school year.

Fixing the roof, which can't be done until the weather improves, is expected to cost more than $500,000, according to the district.

Banko said the leaks began with the arrival of warmer temperatures on Wednesday and further developed on Thursday.

“With as much snow as we had and the extreme cold, it was bound to happen somewhere,” he said. “Unfortunately, it happened here.”

A picture posted online showed several garbage cans placed in a hallway to collect water. Banko would not allow a news photographer into the school.

He commended custodial staff for keeping the floor dry and for their speed in moving classroom furniture.

“We're doing our best to keep it safe,” Banko said. “We don't want water dripping all over the floor. We have to do something as a stop-gap measure. We're going to make do with our situation until somebody can get in there and have a good opportunity to repair it.

“You can't repair a roof that has snow on it.”

Banko said there was no mold, “unless mold grows in 12 hours.”

Superintendent John Pallone did not return a call for comment.

Parents of students said their children were complaining of the smell, as well as headaches and upset stomachs. The smell, which Banko said was coming from the wet ceiling tiles, was compared to both vomit and a petting zoo.

Banko said he had heard complaints about the smell, but not about illnesses.

Communication called into question

Parents took to a school Facebook page to ask questions about the situation and voice their concerns.

The messages were removed, and a message from Banko appeared advising that the page “is not intended to be an open forum for complaints or for providing the opportunity to spread rumors.”

Roseanne Tronka's two sons attend the school. She isn't sure whether their recent headaches and stomach ailments were caused by the leaking roof or something else.

Tronka said the air in the school should be tested, and that the district needs to be forthcoming with information.

“What have our kids been breathing? We need to know what is in that air. We need to know our kids are safe,” she said. “We also need to be told this is going on. I'm really tired of things going on at that high school and we don't find out about it unless our kids tell us.”

Leaks in the high school roof are not a new problem. About a year ago, students unsuccessfully entered a contest sponsored by Big Lots in an effort to get money to fix the roof and faulty water fountains.

In a statement, district officials said repair of the roof and its drainage system was recently included in its spring and summer capital improvement plan, with an estimated cost of more than $500,000.

School board President Bob Pallone said the board is talking about how to get the money to fix the roof, which he said has been damaged by this winter's severe cold.

“What started out as drips is no longer drips,” he said. “With this harsh winter and the cold and the ice, it might have just done it in.”

But for now, all the district can do is close the wing, Bob Pallone said.

He said he will ask at the school board's next meeting why the district was not communicating with parents on such issues.

Residents who can't get answers from district employees and administrators should come to the board, he said.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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