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Roof Partially Collapses At James S. Rickards Middle School In Oakland Park During Construction

RickardsConstrux.jpeg
BCPS SMART Futures Twitter account
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WLRN
The Twitter account for updates on SMART Bond construction projects shows roof repairs at Rickards Middle in Sept. 2020 as well as construction to renovate several rooms, like the media center, in December 2020.

The Title I middle school's media center was under construction. No one was inside the media center at the time the roof started coming down.

The roof partially collapsed over the media center at James S. Rickards Middle School in Oakland Park Friday morning, causing 184 students and additional staff members to be evacuated to a nearby high school amid panic.

The Broward County Public School District says there were no students or teachers inside the school's media center when the roof started to come down — that's because the media center was actively under construction.

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The school is being renovated with money from the District's SMART bond program. The bond program's website for updates shows Rickards Middle was allotted more than $10.5 million. Critics say the school district has mismanaged projects within the $800 million program.

Voters passed the bond program to renovate school buildings in 2014.

The Sun Sentinel published data from the school district in 2019 that shows most bond program projects behind schedule and over budget. According to that data, the original cost estimate for repairs at Rickards was $3.3 million and expected to be completed by the end of September 2019.

Then, the district changed its projections to expect Rickards projects getting done by the end of March 2021 for more than $10.7 million

Photos in September 2020, from the bond program, show Rickards Middle School undergoing roof repairs.

Photos also show the media center was undergoing renovation with ceiling tiles missing in December 2020.

The school district did not answer questions from WLRN about the nature of the construction projects leading up to the roof collapse.

A statement from the district reads in part: "The cause and details surrounding this incident are being investigated."

However, the district did confirm that students who were attending school for in-person learning will have to revert back to virtual e-learning for at least next week.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, currently leads the WLRN Newsroom as Interim Managing Editor. Prior to transitioning to leadership from production, Caitie reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News for four years.