Missoula County Public Schools will need emergency repairs to temporarily fix a roof beam problem at Sentinel High School. But the good news is that the hazard isn't as bad as first feared, and the school has been able to keep vocational classes going. 

The problem in the auto shop first showed up right as the district was going into winter break. 

The problem with the beam forced the school to shut down the heating because it was near a gas line. But Superintendent Russ Lodge says engineers were able to figure out how to prevent any immediate threat and localize the problem.

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"We thought we really had a worst-case scenario where perhaps as many as fifteen teachers might have to be displaced. It turned out to be much better," Lodge told me Tuesday. "We're not going to be able to use that room for the rest of the semester. And we might have one or two teachers displaced, but we're far better off than we thought we were going to be." 

Sentinel High School small engines annex; MCPS photo
Sentinel High School small engines annex; MCPS photo

This week, the school board approved a plan to dip into building reserve funds to complete the repairs, which should be completed in a couple of weeks. Lodge says the long-term fix probably won't happen until school is out for summer.

"And it's hard to do it with construction and have class. We know we can get it back to where that beam has the pressure off of it, and we're going to do that in the next two weeks. But it might be the summertime before we can really get in there and take whatever walls, and roof adjustments we need to do."

Only the small-engine classroom will remain offline for now. That's a relief to administrators since a complete closure presented major problems for vocational courses mid-year.

"Especially auto and welding and the kinds of things that have so much equipment oriented to them and you need a big space to do that," Lodge notes. "So I think we can move our auto to other spots on campus and I think we're going to be OK. So in the end what we thought was really going to be the difficult situation turned out to be reasonably OK."

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