Farrington High School auditorium gutted; structure deemed still sound

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Jan 09 2013 07:00:00 PM HST

Hawaii schools on inspection list due to structural similarities to Farrington following roof collapse.

HONOLULU -

Farrington's auditorium roof collapsed in November 2012 after a short downpour, but a report released in late December determined the roof had a major design flaw, with a heavy concrete catwalk attached to the roof's second truss.

Over the years, added lights and other equipment, made matters worse.

The state found no other school had exactly the same design flaw, but buildings similar in age and shape must be re-inspected, too.

“It's one of the more heavily used auditoriums,” said Ron Okamura, McKinley High School principal.

The school’s rehearsal-filled auditorium is one of nine Hawaii facilities slated for a full inspection after Farrington’s disaster.

“This whole structure was made out of wood,” said Okamura, about McKinley’s auditorium, which was renovated about 15 years ago.

He said the structure is very sound and, as a precaution, they’ve been careful not to add to much lighting to the ceiling.

Before their latest renovation, he says bugs, not faulty trusses threatened to bring it down.

“They looked at the school as far as termites and dry rot damage and they really had to shore up upstairs,” he said.

PHOTOS: Farrington H.S. auditorium roof collapses

Okamura said they've also been diligent about doing their own checks for any potential problems, even recruiting students to report signs of stress or clogged gutters.

Farrington principal Al Carganilla told KITV4 on Wednesday, that equipment and lighting additions by groups like New Hope, were all state approved, but what happened has cranked up their awareness.

“For us, to have all that activity in there, when it could have come down, was fortunate for all of us that nobody got hurt,” he said.

For the past month and a half there's been a big, gaping hole in the roof, letting all the elements in, ruining what was left inside, including 1100 new seats put in just last year, but state engineers determined the structure is sound, recommending a $9 million renovations, instead of a $30 million rebuild.

“My point is, let's do it as soon as possible,” said education board member Brian DeLima at a meeting on Tuesday.

“We've been averting disaster and we've seen it happen and we're lucky. We need to figure out how we prevent that,” said another member, Wesley Lo.

Okamura worries that money and effort to fix Farrington, could take away from their plans to renovate the last of their older buildings.

He just hopes there's enough to go around for some schools still operating on borrowed time.

Other high school's on the list for inspection are: Roosevelt, Castle, Kaimuki, Baldwin, Honoka’a and Hilo High School, along with Kawananakoa Intermediate and Central Middle School.

Asst. superintendent of the School Transportation Services Branch Ray L'Hereux said on Tuesday inspections will be done by the end of January.

At that point, they can determine how to move forward and just how much money it's going to cost.

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