Fruitvale – Major gym repairs almost complete

Fruitvale Elementary School gymnasium expected to be ready in time for the holiday season

The students of Fruitvale Elementary School are getting an early Christmas treat.

Just in time for the holidays, the students will be singing “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” in the warmth of a renovated and repaired gym, after being displaced from the structure since the beginning of the school year.

What began with principal Brian Stefani noticing a few loose ceiling tiles in June, ended with a major repair, to be completed in early December and a rather large bill to School District 20 (SD20).

“The issue, initially, was some ceiling tiles coming loose,” said Steve Morissette, director of operations for SD20.

“Once we went into the ceiling space and saw signs of damage, we had to bring in an engineer, who discovered that a ceiling truss was showing signs of failure.”

An engineer was appointed to draw up a repair plan.

“It was determined that the cheapest and cleanest fix would be to add steel beams above the ceiling trusses, to add support,” explained Morissette.

The next step was to put the plans to tender.

“Until we received the bids from multiple tenders, we did not know what the cost would be.”

In total, the school district has to pony up $295,000 for the repairs, which include repainting walls and resurfacing the gym floors.

“Only a minimal portion will be paid by insurance, because we are strengthening the trusses and insurance will only pay for a truss to be restored,” commented Morissette.

“This has proven to be a lengthy and complicated process with much communication between the engineers, our Director of Operations and the insurer,” said Natalie Verigin, secretary-treasurer of SD20.

“We are also in the process of requesting approval from the Minister of Education on the release of the balance of our ‘restricted’ capital reserves for the balance of the costs for the repair,” she explained.

Stefani said the reinforced trusses were installed over a November weekend when no students or staff was at the school.

“Student and staff safety were paramount during this process.”

Even without a gym, students were kept busy throughout fall with outdoor activities.

“We were blessed with great weather, so we could keep our students busy outside,” said Stefani.

“We have tennis courts, a hockey field, a bowling alley close by – a lot of activities to keep the kids active,” he explained.