When you send your kids off to school, it’s only natural to assume you’re sending them to a safe and secure environment to learn in. Oftentimes there’s no reason to think the institution they are attending is in any shape other than good or even exemplary. Unfortunately for an elementary school in Huffman, Texas, this isn’t the case.
At Falcon Ridge Elementary, there aren’t just a few worn down classrooms, there are numerous safety concerns throughout the school. Ceiling tiles sag over students’ heads, while another student fell into a hole on the second floor that had been hastily patched over with a thin layer of concrete and insulation wrapped in plastic tarp. Solid-maple planks have fallen 40-feet into the school’s commons and seemingly unending cracks and gaps have formed in the wooden gym floor.
The school finds itself at the focal point of a multi-million dollar lawsuit between a construction management firm, a bond program manager, and Huffman ISD.
Paradigm Construction LLC officials say the school district had actually stopped payments to the company after June, even though it took until August to substantially complete the school after several delays spurred by Hurricane Harvey and alleged interference from a firm selected to manage Huffman ISD’s bond program. They claim that as they worked seven days a week to get the building ready for the first day of school, Huffman’s bond manager inserted new subcontractors into the project who altered already finished features, making it difficult for Paradigm’s unpaid subcontractors to finish their work.
On the other hand, Huffman ISD and Bond Program Management Services say their contract allowed them to stop payments to Paradigm after it was apparent the construction would not be completed by the original substantial completion date of July 19, and that the work did not meet standards. BPMS officials say Paradigm, architectural firm Huckabee & Associates, and subcontractors did little to address issues within the school, leading to a building inundated with problems that has even injured students.
Teachers were forced to band together to help assemble furniture and vacuum construction debris hours before they were to welcome students to the school for an open house. In a separate situation, the district was also forced to pay $3,000 a day for two weeks to bring in catered lunches because the school’s kitchen was inoperable.
In the middle of this legal battle and escalating war of words are hundreds of students and dozens of teachers trying to make do with doors that do not close and classrooms with incomplete walls.
Falcon Ridge Physical Education teacher, Courtney Lively, has said she finds new issues with the building each day. The bathrooms attached to the gym only became functional on December 13, and they still lack tile flooring.
“The kids don’t know all the problems, but the teachers are stressed trying to keep it all together,” Lively said.
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