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Emergency crews respond to floor collapse at Mount Penn Primary Center

Emergency crews responded Thursday morning to a collapsed floor at the Mount Penn Primary Center.

Crews were dispatched to the school in 200 block of North 25th Street in the borough just after 10 a.m.

Staff and construction workers inside the building were safely evacuated just before the floor collapsed, said Rick Lombardo, assistant chief of the Mount Penn Fire Company.

Crews responded Thursday morning to a collapsed floor at the Mount Penn Primary Center. The school is undergoing renovations for temporary use as a high school, after a flood last year heavily damaged the Antietam High School building.(Photo courtesy of Rick Lombardo and Mount Penn Fire Company.
Crews responded Thursday morning to a collapsed floor at the Mount Penn Primary Center. The school is undergoing renovations for temporary use as a high school, after a flood last year heavily damaged the Antietam High School building.(Photo courtesy of Rick Lombardo and Mount Penn Fire Company.

Lombardo, who took charge of the response, said contractors were working on building modifications Thursday when they felt the lobby floor sag.

The experienced crew recognized the warning sign, he said, and alerted staff of the danger. All made it out safely just moments before the collapse.

“If the contractors wouldn’t have been so very quick witted with it, we would have had people buried in there,” Lombardo said, noting there often is no warning before a floor collapses. “This started sagging, and they had enough time to warn everybody. They’d just cleared the area when it collapsed.”

Crews responded Thursday morning to a collapsed floor at the Mount Penn Primary Center. The school is undergoing renovations for temporary use as a high school, after a flood last year heavily damaged the Antietam High School building.(Photo courtesy of Rick Lombardo and Mount Penn Fire Company.
Crews responded Thursday morning to a collapsed floor at the Mount Penn Primary Center. The school is undergoing renovations for temporary use as a high school, after a flood last year heavily damaged the Antietam High School building.(Photo courtesy of Rick Lombardo and Mount Penn Fire Company.

Lombardo said the borough engineer and Boyertown Area Fire and Rescue, which serves as Berks County’s collapse team, were called in to investigate.

Using construction drawings from the 2004 renovations to the building, the engineer noted that the steel support columns called for in the plans had never been installed.

“The architectural plans show steel columns being built in to support that whole area,” Lombardo said. “But, lo and behold, whoever did the contracting back in ’04 never installed them. So that all those years, there was nothing supporting that cement floor.”

The building, which opened in 1924 as Mount Penn High School, was closed in 1989, according to Alexa Freyman of Berks Nostalgia, a website focused on Berks County history and architecture.

The school was sold to a private entity and sat vacant for many years before the Antietam School District bought it and renovated it in 2004 for use as a primary school, Lombardo said.

The district has plans to convert the Mount Penn Primary Center into a high school after the Antietam middle senior high school was damaged by flooding in July 2023.

The borough engineer and collapse team secured the area of the fall-in, Lombardo said, and determined it is safe for staff to return to work in other parts of the building.

An estimate on the cost and timeline for repair were not immediately available, he said.

Hunter L. Ahrens, borough manager, issued a statement saying Mount Penn has been in communication with the Antietam School District regarding the events Thursday at the primary center.

“We are grateful that no one was hurt today and that our emergency responders were able to respond quickly and effectively,” Ahrens said.

Borough officials have committed to support district officials as they navigate the setback, he said.

“As they assess the condition of the primary center, we continue to follow our procedures as construction in other parts of the building continues,” Ahrens said. “We will share more as we are able.”

 


Source: Berkshire mont

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