Three Injured In Tennessee School Roof Collapse

The roof of a Tennessee school collapsed and injured three, as calls to update outdated infrastructure grow.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

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Tennessee school

Last Monday, the roof of a Tennessee school collapsed in the library. Students, teachers, and other staff members were evacuated from the scene. A librarian and two other workers were injured, but all were listed in non-critical condition

The Cummings K-8 Optional school is 61 years old and built with 38 classrooms. Although no students were harmed, the Memphis-Shelby County Schools district is now reviewing all buildings with drop ceilings. But despite the fact that the Tennessee school collapse occurred in a structure that opened 61 years ago, only locations built 70 years ago or older will be assessed

Inspectors and engineers are reviewing the damage left behind by the Cummings K-8 Optional School. This district is the largest in Tennessee and serves an estimated 100,000 students. In order to prevent a similar situation from repeating, some are questioning why school officials would only approve inspections of buildings that have been operating for much longer than the one which experienced the collapse. 

While the school is less than 70 years old, the building itself is much older. It was built in 1930, so this may have influenced the decision. Yet, the roof which collapsed was only installed in 1982 so this leaves an even more concerning picture of Tennessee school inspections and structural integrity. If the roof was only 40 years old, inspecting 70-year-old structures may leave other school locations vulnerable to future damage, creating further dangers to students and staff members. 

For now, students are being taught at LaRose Elementary. The exact cause of the collapse has yet to be released, and repairing the roof may cost millions of dollars in district funding. Just last year the Tennessee school district had applied for $55 million in maintenance and building project fees, but only received $22 million. 

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris admitted that the Tennessee schools are suffering from as much as $500 million in “deferred maintenance.” In order to prevent other building threats, the mayor believes that investing in proper building care and upkeep is well overdue. Raising taxes and asking for state and federal aid are options being placed on the table. 

Tennessee school

Unfortunately in a collapsing economy, and in wake of enrollment declines and a loss of public support for public school districts, gaining that funding may be an uphill battle. Instead of using the incident to display the community’s need, the Cummings K-8 Optional School has not listed any information regarding the incident on its website, nor have they actively petitioned for additional funding. School officials may be waiting to receive the results of what caused the incident before they move forward. 

Because no children were hurt during the Tennessee school collapse and the school staff members involved were not severely injured, this incident is likely to pass without much notice. While public schools received billions of dollars in COVID relief funds, there has been no mention of the potential to utilize those resources for these building upgrades. For now, despite the district’s need to review its structures, there is no solid plan to begin building repairs for the 2022-2023 school year.