Grayson County schools assess earthquake damage

Independence Elementary has been cleared to reopen Tuesday
Published: Aug. 10, 2020 at 5:42 PM EDT
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INDEPENDENCE, Va. (WDBJ) - Officials in Grayson County were busy Monday assessing the damage to school buildings that were set to open later this week.

At least four of the seven public schools in the county were damaged during Sunday’s earthquake.

Late Monday afternoon, one was cleared for occupancy, and others were still being inspected.

Standing outside Independence Elementary School, the damage isn’t obvious.

But on closer inspection you can see the cracks in the exterior bricks, running from a point near the roof almost all the way to the ground.

In the gymnasium, Superintendent Kelly Wilmore showed us more evidence of the earthquake’s power, more cracks in the cinder-block wall behind the stage.

“We feel pretty good that we’re going to be okay,” Wilmore told WDBJ7, “but we want the pros in here to double-check behind.”

By early afternoon, Todd Poff was on the case. A structural engineer with OWPR in Blacksburg, he inspected each trouble-spot.

“The brick is just a veneer,” he said after inspecting one area where cracks were found, “so hopefully this is just an aesthetic problem.”

With the social-distancing COVID-19 requires, Wilmore said he can’t afford to lose much space.

But safety comes first, and the superintendent said the school system will do what it must to keep moving forward.

“It’s given us another puzzle to solve,” Wilmore said. “Welcome to 2020.”

The school year was supposed to begin Thursday, but officials have delayed the start of classes until next Tuesday, allowing time for any aftershocks and a thorough inspection.

Late Monday afternoon, the engineer reported Independence Elementary School can reopen safely Tuesday.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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