Kimball School District mulling building optionsKimball Superintendent Bill Thompson walks around his school, pointing out areas of structural problems he has inherited in his fourth year with the district. In the wrestling room, Business Manager Eileen Kroupa can place her fingers in a 2-inch gap where the floor has sunk along the east wall, exposing the concrete wall of the foundation below the surface.
By: Melanie Brandert, The Daily Republic
KIMBALL — Kimball Superintendent Bill Thompson walks around his school, pointing out areas of structural problems he has inherited in his fourth year with the district.
In the wrestling room, Business Manager Eileen Kroupa can place her fingers in a 2-inch gap where the floor has sunk along the east wall, exposing the concrete wall of the foundation below the surface. There are several places in this room along the wall where the tile floor has cracked and settling is occurring.
“This is probably the most dramatic change of anywhere in the building,” Thompson said of the wrestling room. “We’re still doing a lot of testing — is it settling here? Is it rising over here? Is it expanding in and out?”
He assures that the building is still safe for students and staff to have classes.
Kimball School District in 2002 began demolishing its old school to make way for a new building on the site that was finished two years later. Although the new school gave the district more room and updated facilities, it has begun to deteriorate.
As troubles mount, school officials are considering whether to rebuild parts of the one-story building. To help with the legal trouble, the district has hired Janklow Law Firm in Sioux Falls, with former Gov. and U.S. Rep. Bill Janklow as lead litigator, to work on the district’s case against Swift Contractors in Sioux Falls.
“We may be looking at replacing the school,” Janklow said. “If we thought what they did was deliberate, we would charge them with fraud. What we’re saying at this point in time is they haven’t fulfilled the contract.”
Ground was broken for the new K-12 school in July 2002 and it was dedicated in February 2004, Thompson said. The district paid $3.1 million in capital outlay certificates to build it, hiring Swift, he said.
Dennis Kindt, vice president of Swift, did not return calls this week seeking comment.
School officials began noticing structural problems, such as floor settling, cracks and seams in the corners of classrooms in 2006 — when the building was just two years old.
The district hired Banner and Associates in November 2008 and Brosz Engineering in 2009 to examine the structure, Thompson said. Tetra Tech and Soil Technologies, hired last year, extracted soil samples from different parts of the school and officials are waiting for the results, he said.
Structural engineers have said the school has settled at different depths, Thompson said.
In the last six months, one classroom on the west side developed a large, gaping crack that runs up to the ceiling in a corner, with one thin crack running down a wall near a window. Another crack is above the window.
Concrete block walls in two locker rooms have started to separate, with sinking in the floor of one room. Long gaps in the practice gym floor are apparent, significant at the entrances to locker rooms.
An English room is one of five classrooms with issues. There, a long, thin crack runs up to the ceiling on the west wall, with another in the corner. Tests have showed there is a bow in the north wall, Thompson said.
Outside the northeast entrance, a couple of long, vertical cracks are above the brick portion of the east side of the building toward the roof. Two more cracks have formed where the wrestling room is located.
“There have been inspections of one sort or another since 2006,” Janklow said, adding the architect was called in. “They (experts) all agree there is a serious problem.”
In an interview with The Daily Republic, Janklow said vital problems exist with the underlying foundation. In the old school, the gym was in the basement. That was demolished and contractors filled in the hole.
“There is no question the fill that was put under the building does not meet any of the specifications that were called for in the contract,” he said. “One of the major problems of this project is a compaction problem.”
The practice gym, known as Kiote Den, was built where the old gym was located, Thompson said. He noted the school was built at a time when the Kimball area had little rain until the last two years.
“All of a sudden, we’ve had more moisture for years and years and years,” Thompson said. “Whether that has compounded the settling or what, nobody is really for sure about that either. Once again, (we are) waiting on results coming back. Did they not anticipate these things way back when?”
The thought of a new school is a bit overwhelming for Thompson.
“It’s almost unthinkable of how to do that at this point in time,” he said.
During a recent school board meeting with Janklow, reconstruction of everything besides the elementary school and high school gym was an option that was discussed, Thompson said.
A civil complaint has yet to be filed in either Brule or Minnehaha counties. In the meantime, the district is entering into arbitration with Swift to try to work out a compromise, Janklow said.
“Like I told the school board, if we have to litigate this, we will litigate it to the end,” he said. “Our preference is to get it resolved. Nobody wanted to buy a lawsuit. People wanted to buy a school.”