Four schools close due to fears of roof collapse

South Florida Sun Sentinel | by Scott Travis | March 30, 2021

Four Broward schools will remain closed until further notice as inspectors make sure their roofs won’t be the next to collapse.

While most students returned from Spring Break this week, 1,425 students at Lauderdale Lakes Middle, Lauderhill 6-12, Apollo Middle in Hollywood and Plantation Middle are learning remotely while the schools are inspected.

Combined enrollment at the four schools is about 3,600 students, but most were already learning at home due to the pandemic.

The four schools — all built in the late 1960s — have the exact same structural design as James S. Rickards Middle in Fort Lauderdale, where the roof over the media center collapsed May 5. Students there have been e-learning since the breach. The roof had just been replaced within the past year.

Initially after the Rickards incident, the school district decided to keep the four other schools open but close the media centers and adjacent classrooms.

“In an abundance of caution while this process continues, our school will revert to 100% e-learning,” Ryan Reardon, principal of Lauderhlll 6-12, wrote in a note to parents Sunday. “As always, our highest priorities are the safety of our students and staff.”

It wasn’t the first time a school with this design had a structural failure. The roof of the media center at Apollo Middle collapsed in April 1979. All five schools were closed during the 1979-80 school year. It’s unclear what steps the district took to address weaknesses in the school.

The engineering firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. will oversee the forensic engineering inspection, with support provided by architects for the four schools, all of which are under renovation.

Photo: Students were evacuated from James S. Rickards Middle School when part of the school’s roof collapsed Friday, March 5, 2021. (Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue/Courtesy)

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