Orchard Park School District structures under scrutiny over safety, code concerns - The Buffalo News

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Orchard Park School District structures under scrutiny over safety, code concerns

Ten Orchard Park School District structures that are used for outdoor activities remain shut down and face continuing scrutiny for concerns about safety and state code compliance.

Baseball dugouts, picnic pavilions, concession stands, the football press box and storage sheds remain closed until the district’s engineers determine what needs to be fixed and at what cost.

“We can’t have anyone hurt,” School Superintendent Matthew P. McGarrity said. “If we know it doesn’t meet code, we need to be responsible about it as a district.”

This spring, varsity baseball players sat outside covered dugouts, behind the backstop.

The scrutiny began with the collapse last October of a newly built picnic pavilion on a windy afternoon outside South Davis Elementary School. The district built the shelter last summer with money raised from the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization. The pavilion also was to be used as an outdoor classroom teaching space.

The collapse triggered an extensive review by the district’s engineering firm.

McGarrity said it all came down to concerns about safety and compliance with building codes.

Some of the structures, he said, were built 30 years ago, while others were constructed more recently. The catch is that some met state Education Department code, while others met only the town building code.

“The main goal is to get these things up to code,” McGarrity said. “When we’re told something doesn’t meet code, we have no choice but to not have the kids in them until they meet code.”

Siracuse Engineers, the district’s engineering firm, is still working to determine what needs to be replaced or redone and at what cost.

The closed baseball dugouts, only 2 years old, were built as part of a volunteer effort by a local construction company. Their closing upset parents and players during the recent baseball season.

“We were frustrated at first, but we dealt with it and sat outside the dugouts,” said James J. Gibson, varsity baseball coach and a physical-education teacher at South Davis Elementary. “We had a good season, and we’ve been promised it will be fixed. It became kind of a point of pride for us.”

School Board Vice President David Nielsen, who serves on the board’s planning committee that is studying the issue, said it has been determined that the foundation for the baseball dugouts is too shallow by a fraction of an inch, which will require the dugouts to be moved so the foundations can be redone.

“The district figured it should look at all its outdoor buildings. A lot of buildings were done by volunteers and community fundraising,” Nielsen said. “State education guidelines are a little stricter than local building codes.”

The large outdoor pavilion near the middle school has been reopened, he said.

email: krobinson@buffnews.com

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