Montclair High School.
FILE PHOTO

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

An inspection of Montclair High School’s stairwells found that with the exception of four now-closed staircases in the main building, none of the staircases at Montclair High School are in imminent danger of collapse, but several staircases were found to have corrosion and deterioration that should be repaired within the next three months, according to letters from the architect.

Following the collapse of a stairwell on Sept. 7 and a subsequent inspection of all stairwells on Sept. 11, school officials announced that four stairwells will remain closed until they are replaced.

On Sept. 12 and 13, architects Parette Somjen sent Business Administrator Emidio D’Andrea the findings of their inspection concerning the damaged staircase and the other stairs in the  high school building.

The original high school or main building, which faces south toward Chestnut Street, was built in 1914. An addition was added in 1959. Sixteen staircases are located in the main building. All four of the staircases slated for replacement are in the 1914 section; with the damaged staircase just inside the Park Street entrance. Of the other three, one is inside the entrance facing Midland Avenue, and the remaining two are in the center of the building, just off the main corridor.

As a result of the stairwell closures, 31 classrooms and offices on the second and third floors are inaccessible.

The plan is to completely demolish and rebuild the four staircases. On Monday, Sept. 17, Parette Somjen said the goal was to have the first two staircases completed in about eight weeks. And then to proceed in replacement of the other two.

The report also found some repairs are needed on a set of stairs leading inside the building from the entrance facing the amphitheater.

“It is our opinion that they do not need to be closed at this time, but these stair runs will need to be repaired during the Thanksgiving or Christmas break. Out of an abundance of caution, we advise that the exterior door be used for egress only, and students not use this as a building entrance. This is to keep any additional rain or other moisture from being tracked onto these stairs,” according to the letter.

The letter also recommends doing only basic cleaning, without any wet mopping, on those stairs.

A staircase, leading from the cafeteria to the open courtyard, is kept closed and locked at all times, and the letter recommended keeping it closed until repairs can be made due to some corrosion in the metal pan and stringer.

The remaining staircases in the school were found not to have any issues in need of immediate repair, but Parette Somjen advised the district to follow through with routine maintenance.

An inspection found some corrosion in some of the staircases in the George Inness Annex, built in 1925, but not to the same extent found in the four staircases in the 1914 section of the main building. Four staircases in the annex will need repairs.

“It is [our] professional opinion that the Annex stairs are not in any imminent danger of falling and may be used in September. We do however strongly recommend that the corrosion in question be monitored and repaired no later than the Thanksgiving or Christmas break 2018,” the letter said.

The district was expected to send out more information this week about temporary classroom space, including portable classrooms set up on the school grounds.