Aug. 27, 2001 – One small class will be combined with another at J. Antonio Jarvis School, and a music teacher will switch to a different classroom. Those are the stop-gap solutions to the threat posed by an old classroom building on the schoolgrounds that was identified more than two years ago as being structurally unsound.
The decision to not use the aging Conrad Building at the Jarvis School came before a meeting Friday of officials of the Education, Public Works, Property and Procurement, Planning and Natural Resources and Police Departments and Fire Services and the Office of the Governor, according to Education spokeswoman Juel Anderson.
The officials met to decide what to do in the face of reports that the more than 100-year-old Conrad Building on Prindsens Gade has major structural damage that could endanger children and staff at the school.
The officials decided not to use the building until it can be assessed and any necessary repairs are made. They also decided to erect a wooden barricade to keep people away from the Conrad Building and an adjacent abandoned building on the school grounds. The barricade was built over the weekend, and Anderson said school officials were confident it would keep the children away from any possible danger the old buildings might pose.
Instead of taking children to the music classroom in the Conrad Building, the music teacher will use a formerly empty room in the main Jarvis building, Anderson said Monday.
The only other Conrad Building room that had been scheduled for use was for a relatively small kindergarten class. The pupils now will be combined with another small kindergarten class.
"The children won’t be affected," Anderson said of the logistical change. There will still be fewer than 16 students in the class.
As far back as June of 1999, government officials have been aware of the possible dangers posed by the old buildings.
In a letter dated June 19, 1999, to Myron Jackson, then Historic Preservation Office senior planner, Martin Weaver, an architect with experience in preserving historic buildings, wrote that the Conrad Building had a large diagonal crack indicative of structural damage to the foundation. That crack posed an immediate danger of structural failure, Weaver said. And so did the possibility that water flowing past the building might have damaged floor joists and contributed to termite damage and decay.
"Since this is an elementary school with small children in it, the combination of phenomena appears to pose a serious and unacceptable risk," Weaver wrote to Jackson. "I would strongly recommend that you should inform the responsible senior officer, who I believe is the commissioner of the Department of Education."
The Historic Preservation Office passed the information along to Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds in a letter dated July 6, 1999. In that letter, officials in the Historic Preservation Office stated that both the Conrad Building and the adjacent abandoned building "pose a threat to both the school’s student body and the public."
Last week, Sen. Norma Pickard-Samuel charged that Jarvis School, where she said she sends one of her children, is unsafe. She said she learned of the problems during discussions about possible uses for $200,000 that is to go toward repairs at the school.
Architects will begin a thorough assessment of the Conrad Building and the abandoned structure on Tuesday, Anderson said. After they submit their report, officials will decide what to do with the historic structures.
Education officials did not respond to questions Monday about why it took more than two years to address a situation potentially dangerous to the children attending the school.


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