Olympia School District officials are scrambling to figure out why the walls of Madison Elementary are showing signs of dry rot, despite opening just 14 years ago. The building cost $4.5 million and is supposed to last between 30 and 50 years.
The problem was discovered as work crews prepared routine painting of the school’s exterior, officials said Monday. Cracks were found in the stucco siding, which led to an investigation into the wall itself. That is when widespread rotting was found to some support beams and significant parts of the plywood-like substance designed to prevent the building from swaying.
“Disappointing doesn’t seem like a strong enough word,” said Superintendent Dick Cvitanich, “I have questions about the materials, questions about the process, questions about the oversight.”
For the last two weeks, workers have been pulling stucco off much of the exterior and beginning to analyze the rotted areas. Next week, the district expects to learn how extensive and how expensive the damage could be. Health officials have determined no students or teachers were harmed by the rot or potential mold in the walls.
The bigger question, Cvitanich said, revolves around the building process and whether the district’s – and taxpayer’s – money was properly spent.
“When we construct a building and pay taxpayer money,” he explained, “We expect them to last.”
Schwieson Construction out of Centralia was the lead contractor on the project. Mike Schwieson said Monday he had not spoken with the district about any damage and could not speak to the issue. He added he could not recall which subcontractors worked on the school or whether the warranty on the material had run out.
Cvitanich said the district is not pointing fingers yet, but the school should not be in this shape right now.
“I don’t think best practices were followed necessarily,” he said.