UPDATE: All ceilings at Potter Burns Elementary must be replaced

UPDATE: All ceilings at Potter Burns Elementary must be replaced

School's out until June 3

PAWTUCKET - Potter Burns Elementary School, which has been closed since a ceiling section collapsed in a basement space late Wednesday, May 22, has been shut down for all of next week and is not scheduled to reopen for classes as usual until Monday morning, June 3, according to School Supt. Deborah Cylke.

Cylke said that tests conducted to see if there was any asbestos in the plaster and gypsum ceiling materials “came back negative.” She said she was notified Friday of the result by the independent testing lab, R.I. Analytical Laboratories Inc., which will follow up with a full written report.

To expedite the process for the school repairs, which Cylke said are preventive in nature, bids were sought on an emergency basis from three potential vendors. Those bids were to be reviewed on Friday, May 24, by city Building Inspector John Hanley, schools building Plant Manager Dennis Rebello, and an engineer with Rowse Architects, Steven Tucker.

Wednesday’s ceiling collapse at Potter Burns, located at 973 Newport Ave., took down a six-foot by 10-foot section in a small basement room used for occupational therapy as well as storage for related equipment. The room was unoccupied at the time and there were no injuries, according to school officials.

Besides forcing cancellation of school Thursday and Friday, the incident prompted examination of rooms on other floors in the school with a similar ceiling fastening system. The results of the analysis require repairs on all three levels of the building.

The superintendent said she was working with the state Commissioner of Education’s office to determine if the school days lost to the emergency, combined with several make-up days due to winter weather, would still leave the school with a permissible number of days to complete the school year.

A design plan for a ceiling stabilizing strapping system for the ceiling repair was submitted by Rowse Architects to Hanley and given approval early Friday, leading to the bids solicitation. City officials said Purchasing Director David Clemente will review the bids and notify the selected vendor later Friday with work to begin by 7 a.m. Saturday and completion by June 1.

The estimated cost for the ceiling work is plus or minus $100,000, city officials said. City-based Providence Fire Restoration will be doing cleanup work at a cost of approximately $5,000.

Cylke said parents were being notified Friday that the school will be closed next week by a phone alert system and through an extensive email list, with updates also on the department’s website, www.psdri.net. Another phone alert update will go out on Monday.

“Safety of our students and staff members cannot be compromised," states Cylke in her message. "We appreciate your patience and understanding."

PAWTUCKET - School officials have shut down Potter Burns Elementary School at 973 Newport Ave. on Thursday and Friday this week after a ceiling in a basement office collapsed on Wednesday.

Shutting down the school will allow time for engineers to investigate the collapse of the ceiling, which measured six feet by 10 feet, according to Supt. Deborah Cylke. No one was hurt, she said, and no one was in the room.

Cylke said that engineers from Rouse Architects met with building and fire officials and all agreed that the school remain closed until a thorough assessment can be made. The head of schools said she is seeking a waiver from the Rhode Island Department of Education in hopes of avoiding having to make up the two days missed.

Workers have taken a sample of the material that fell to test it for asbestos, said Cylke. The engineer, Steve Tucker, did not see any sign of asbestos, she noted, "but this is standard protocol." School officials will have results from the testing Friday.

The broad concern for school officials is that the entire ceiling system at Potter Burns may pose a danger. The ceilings are made of plaster over gysum board nailed to ceiling joists, she said.

"Their concern is that if this condition existed in the office room in the basement, does it exist elsewhere in other ceilings? If so, preventative measures must be taken," she said in an email. "How long it would take to address the problem has not been determined."