School building gets a failing mark

By Chelle Delaney: QCS Staff

When testing is completed – by the end of January – Tucumcari Public Schools officials hope they will learn why their multi-million-dollar elementary school has cracks in its walls and at certain joints, said Arron McKinney school superintendent.
“It’s safe,” McKinney said. “But I believe if we let it continue, it may not be,” he said.
A visual inspection of the school shows that there are cracks in some of the walls and at certain junctions where the floor and walls meet.

McKinney also pointed to one area where the walls appear to have caused several ceiling tiles to pop out at the edges.

Most of the cracks are on the section of the buildings that is closest to 11th Street.
Built over a nine year period some of the classroom sections are transitioned by an atrium design.

The elementary school, which was built in phases from 1998 to the present, cost about $13 million, McKinney said.

The building has had settling issues, but “it is progressing,” said McKinney, who joined Tucumcari Public Schools in 2003 as the assistant to the superintendent. He was named superintendent earlier this month.

It is not certain if sections of building are rising slightly, or settling slightly, school officials have said.

McKinney also said that he was not aware of any cracks on the building’s exterior.
In the meantime, the school system has hired an Albuquerque law firm, Sheenhan, Sheehan & Stelzner, which has as one of its specialities construction and contracts, McKinney said. It has also hired another Albuquerque-based firm, McKeen Consulting Engineers, LLC, which has been overseeing geological surveys and testing of the soil on which the building sits, McKinney said. McKeen specializes in analysis, evaluation, design, investigation and rehabilitation of foundations.
Also of concern is a French drain that was constructed under the school to take moisture out of the soil underneath the building, McKinney said.

Last week, concern was also raised about a buckling sidewalk at 11th and Charles streets.
Alex Madrid, city superintendent of streets and sanitation, said seven yards of dirt were used to fill in areas that had washed away.

Because school’s in session, “We won’t be able to fix anything until summer,” McKinney said. But the school system hopes it will learn why the building is cracking when the latest round of core samples are tested. They also hope the school system’s attorney will be able to take appropriate action.

Because of the cracks in the walls and in the floor, the latest phase of construction required that the soil be tested and that dirt be compacted to certain levels before constrcuction began, McKinney said.

This last phase, estimated to cost about $876,000, included two kinder classrooms with an entrance on South Eighth Street, near Charles Street.

The classrooms, which were certified for occupancy about two weeks ago, were constructed with federal funds from the IDEA-B program. “We would have lost the money,” said McKinney, adding that the original plans called for four classrooms, but by the time the funds were available, construction costs had increased to the point that only two rooms could be built.