The new gym floor at Patterson Mill Middle High School splintered a week ago Thursday and injured a basketball player who had to be taken to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center. The student had a shard, estimated at 5 – 6”, surgically removed, according to accounts from parents at the school. The student has since been released from the hospital.
The problem area on the gym floor was taped off and a girls’ basketball game was played on the surface later the same day.
In response to an inquiry from the PTSA, Principal Wayne Thibeault confirmed the incident and recounted HCPS’s response in an email, used with permission here on The Dagger:
Mrs. Melanie Wernig (Risk Manager for HCPS) was notified on Thursday evening by me. I provided her with the details regarding the incident.
I also alerted the facilities department of HCPS about the incident that same evening. [Assistant Principal] Mr. Milanoski followed up with HCPS Facilities on Friday morning as well.
On Friday the floor was inspected and the game scheduled for Friday night was postponed pending further detailed inspections of the floor.
I will receive more detailed information on the status of the gym floor on Monday when we return to work.
In the meantime we are not utilizing the main gym until it can be determined that the gym surface is safe for our students to play on.
The safety of the surface will be determined by Mrs. Wernig in concert with our facilities people and any flooring experts that she may call upon to make this determination.
I will continue to keep you in the loop as soon as I receive more definitive information regarding this issue.
I am sure that you understand that I cannot speculate at this time on the status of this weeks’ games scheduled for PMMHS. However, I can assure you that the safety and well being of our students is everyones number one concern and to that end I can assure you and everyone else that we will make no compromise.
Yours for youth,
Wayne D. Thibeault
The inspection identified a total of 7 locations on the gym floor in need of repair.
Principal Thibeault later indicated the sites were being fixed by HCPS staff and Mrs.Wernig, the Risk Manager for HCPS had cleared the gym for use. A wrestling match was held on the mat-covered floor Monday night, but the following day, activities did not resume as anticipated.
Instead, more meetings ensued, PE classes were curtailed and more games have been postponed. Our inquiries, now being directed to Teri Kranefeld, Manager of Communications for HCPS, prompted the following response:
Our Facilities Department and the company that installed the floor have inspected both the high and middle school floors. They have identified the areas that need to addressed and they are currently scheduling to have the work completed. I do not have an exact date for you at this point, as the schedule is currently being set. We want to ensure permanent solutions to address these issues—not quick fixes. Once the work begins, it should take approximately two days to make the necessary repairs. We are not going to allow any activities to take place until the repairs are complete and the final inspection has taken place.
Late word is that the second round of repairs, which now appear to include the original installer, is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, February 10th. Repairs are expected to be completed by the following day.
According to Ms. Kranefeld, rumors that the entire floor will be replaced are unfounded and the middle school gym floor was inspected, but nothing was found beyond normal wear and tear.
A few delayed games are a small price to pay for student safety and it’s good to see that school officials are dealing with the problems that are evident. But a gym floor is composed of hundreds of individual boards. Fixing a few boards now is no guarantee of all the other boards in the future, if the problem turns out to be systemic.
That’s why it’s important to identify the root cause of this incident. When the floor was built, were faulty materials used? Was installation shoddy? Was the new floor compromised in some way? If so, contractors need to be held accountable – the floor is less than two years old. Until the answers become clear, it looks like parents who have been following up on facilities problems at Patterson Mill have something else to add to their list.