Lockport Central ceiling demolition contract awarded

Project only covers the demolition of the remaining high-risk ceilings

Lockport Township High School District 205 Central campus in Lockport, Sept. 19, 2023.  The campus serves as a freshmen center.

Lockport — Lockport Township High School District’s Board of Education voted Tuesday to approve a contract to officially start work replacing the compromised ceilings at Central Campus.

More than three months after a third-floor classroom ceiling collapsed at the 115-year-old building, causing students to be relocated to Lincoln-Way North for the remainder of the school year, the district is moving forward with the plan to demolish and replace additional ceilings which could pose a hazard. Since the Nov. 1 incident, District 205 has had numerous inspections conducted to determine what went wrong in the impacted ceiling and how many other areas of the school could be compromised.

The final results of that report were presented Tuesday to the board, though much of the information had already been informally shared at previous meetings. The ceiling collapse was caused by the age of the wood and plaster in the ceiling and fluctuating temperatures and moisture levels in the building over the course of 90 years.

Piece of the plaster and metal mesh ceiling which collapsed in Room 310 of LTHS Central Campus on Nov. 2.

Every ceiling in the building was tested in the wake of the accident. While only three additional classrooms adjacent to the site of the collapse were found to pose an immediate danger, several other areas which utilized the same heavy, plaster ceiling design were also deemed “medium to high risk” and were recommended for removal by forensic architects from the firm of Wiss, Janey, Elstner Associates.

Bids for the demolition project of the high-risk ceilings went out in January and the district received six bids ranging from $479,000 to $1,047,000.

The district voted to award the contract to the lowest bidder, CCC Holdings Inc. and demolition will begin shortly.

The cost of the project only covers the demolition of the remaining high-risk ceilings and does not include reconstruction. Once the ceilings are fully removed, there will be another round of inspections of the ceilings and the surrounding roof structures by structural engineers to determine if additional work needs to be done in the reconstruction process.

These inspections are estimated to take about three weeks, before bidding can begin for the rebuilding phase of the project.

“As long as we have the ceilings down, it seemed like a good idea to take advantage and look up into the ceilings,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert McBride. “We want to be thorough, but to be thorough takes time.”

By the time the district is looking to begin the bidding on the ceiling reconstruction, the results of the referendum in the March 19 primary election will be known, and District 205 will also know if it can go out for $85 million in bonds for an extensive renovation of Central Campus. It is possible that some of the work needed to improve Central long term could be started while the ceilings are being rebuilt this spring and summer, though no official timeline on that construction has been officially discussed.