The Loudon County
School Board voted unanimously to close Greenback School
indefinitely until the school can be inspected for gas leaks. In
an emergency session called in the middle of a workshop Monday
night, the board decided the potential danger was too great to
allow students to continue to occupy the building until a
complete inspections was completed. The school was evacuated
twice last week when the smell of gas was detected.
is set to be closed through Friday, according to the director's
office. County Purchasing Agent Leo Bradshaw outlined the series
of events last week when people at the school reported smelling
gas. Bradshaw said that after inspections and a certain amount
of "panic" about the possibility of a gas leak, "no actual leak
was detected" but he recommended a "third party" inspect the
gas lines to determine if there is a problem.
After a long discussion about whether or not there had been gas
leaks, board member Gary Ubben said the important thing is that
there is "a perception of a safety problem" and it was important
to reassure parents their children are safe at Greenback School.
He alluded to the ongoing debate about whether or not to build a
new school in Greenback but said regardless of the building
debate such a serious problem as potential gas leaks needs to be
Board Chairman Scott Newman referred the question of whether or
not there had been actual gas leaks to Ron Jones, Tennessee fire
marshal, who was in the audience. "Yes there were gas leaks,"
Jones told the board adding that he had been at the school more
than an hour after the initial reports and there was still gas
Board member Bill Marcus said the board should immediately close
Greenback School until the students' safety could be ensured.
"I'm not for letting kids go there one more day," Marcus told
the board. The board quickly moved to an emergency called
meeting with Greenback School Board representative Lisa Russell
suggesting the board close the school the next day with "no time
limit" until the safety issues could be resolved. Marcus moved
to do just that with Russell seconding the motion.
Greenback Principal Joey Breedlove was in the audience when he
was asked if he could effect the school's closure overnight. "I
can do whatever you tell me to do," Breedlove replied and asked
how long he could expect the school to be closed. Bradshaw
estimated it would take "two or three" days on site for the
inspections to be complete and the rest would depend on what was
found. The board then voted with all in favor of the closure,
which will forbid any activity on campus. "Thanks to all of you
for that," Russell said.
Marcus concluded that the important thing was not having to "ask
a parent to forgive me because their kid went to school and got
hurt. "Tuesday afternoon a group of officials arrived at
Greenback School to tackle the problem of gas leaks. The county
school board closed the school indefinitely due to a series of
gas leaks that have forced the school to be evacuated several
times in recent weeks.
Bradshaw, Russell, Breedlove, Loudon County Director of Schools
Wayne Honeycutt, Assistant Director Jason Vance, Greenback Mayor
Tom Peeler, Greenback Fire Chief Ronnie Lett, mechanical
engineer Greg Farmer, State Fire Marshal Mark Boyd, Deputy State
Fire Marshal Ron Jones and others came to the school to discuss
a game plan for solving the problem of the leaks.
Bradshaw lead the meeting, first asking the fire marshal what he
is looking for in the process. Boyd said he wants to know what
is causing the leaks and when the school will be safe. Bradshaw
said the best idea would be to have gas detectors tied to the
schools fire alarm system. When working out how many senors
would be needed, Lett estimated there should be one in every
Farmer, who works for the engineering firm Hodge Associates, if
he had any idea "how much this will cost and how quickly we can
get this done." Farmer said it was his first time at the school
and he "couldn't commit to any time frame" until he knew more.
He estimated it would take a week for the entire school to be
looked over then at least another week before the final report
could be prepared. Bradshaw asked if Framer's firm could avail
themselves of more resources and possibly "speed that up."
Framer said it was possible.
Bradshaw told him it was important for the school to be opened
within a week. "I don't know what kind of tiger we have by the
tail," Farmer said adding it would depend on how much of the
natural gas piping is concealed and hard to access. He estimated
that 80 percent of the gas lines are exposed and 20 percent are
Farmer then questioned the group about the school's recent
conversion from propane to natural gas noting that the same
pipes are being used, adding that reusing the pipes is usually a
problem. Lett noted his department uses two devices to check
for gas leaks one a leak detector and the other a device that
measures PPM (parts per million) of gas in the air. Lett said
the scale on the device is 1-10 with 10 denoting the air is
explosive. He said people react when there is a "smell or the
meter goes up" but thus far it had never reached a 10. He also
said since the pipes being used are 30 years old he feared rust
might be breaking loose in the pipes and clogging the
valves. "I'm not sold it's a pipe problem," Farmer said noting
the gas is under very little pressure in the pipes. He also said
he would like to see a section of pipe, which Bradshaw said
could be arranged.
The inspection of Greenback School should continue for at least
two days until the engineers and fire marshals can determine
what could be causing the gas leaks and how they can be fixed.
The school will remain closed until fire officials are satisfied
the building is safe.
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