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‘We have never had students to use that facility’: Superintendent addresses collapsed roof at Lee County school

Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 1:00 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 8, 2021 at 1:13 PM EDT
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BISHOPVILLE, S.C. (WIS) - Several emails into the WIS newsroom this week from concerned parents asked about a collapsed roof on the top of a Dennis Elementary School building in Lee County.

Lee County School District Superintendent answered a key question Thursday: have any students or staff been spending time in any part of the building with the roof damage?

The answer is no, students have not been learning in that building at any point since the roof caved in.

“It is an eyesore, I hate to see it,” McDaniel said. “I think our students deserve better, I know they deserve better. But I would no way – this is the part that bothers me – for anyone to believe that we would put our students or our staff in a situation that would be dangerous to them, we would never do that.”

Students were first moved to this campus back in 2014. At that point, the roof at this part of the building was already collapsed.

Renovations were done to the main portion of the building, where Dennis Elementary’s 430 students currently learn.

“I’ve shared the facts, and the facts are our students are perfectly in the major part of the building here,” McDaniel said. “We do not, absolutely do not use this part of the building. Again, it doesn’t look good, I hate the way it looks. But we do not, and never have had students to use that facility.”

Multiple agencies deemed the main building safe for learning in 2014 as well.

“What we were able to secure is that we got the approval of the State Fire Marshal, the local Fire Marshal, Office of School Facilities, we got what’s called a certificate of occupancy, which allowed us to occupy the building and start school, so that was done at that time. We never used this part of the building.”

Fire Marshals gave the district the opportunity to use the collapsed portion of the building as storage, but the principal has the key and it is off-limits to students and staff.

In August, officials from the State Department of Education’s Office of School Facilities and the State Fire Marshal’s Office checked out the campus again and said it was cleared for use to the presence of a firewall between the collapsed building and the main building.

“That there’s no way if this building caught on fire, that the fire would be able to jump that wall and go over to the main building,” McDaniel said. “So that’s the rationale for it. It was approved in 2014, they came back in august, checked it and it was approved again.”

What comes next for the building with the hole?

“We have been securing quotes or bids to demolish that part of the building,” McDaniel said. “It’s pretty pricey. And we’re in a district that has very limited funds, limited resources and we’re going to probably have to rely on state and local to help us with this project.”

The district has recently secured DHEC approval, which is required prior to demolishing any facility with asbestos-containing materials.

McDaniel said that the district currently has two quotes for demolition of the collapsed building and are expecting a third in the next week.

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