The magnitude 5.8 tremors shook loose bricks from the school’s historic bell tower and chimneys, which sit atop the 130-year-old Grant School wing of the building. Mortar cracked in the 1881 edifice too.
In the early aftermath of the earthquake, the School Without Walls administration and Home School Association moved quickly to ask DCPS to survey the school for damage.
”The school needed priority attention, so I reached out to City Administrator Allen Lew, the immediate past director of DCPS facilities, to try to address the impact from the earthquake,” said Terry Lynch, HSA vice president and a member of the team that oversaw the school’s renovation and modernization in 2009.
As a consequence, on Thursday, August 25, City Administrator Allen Lew visited the school with engineers from the Office of Public Education and Facilities Management. The team determined that the chimneys and tower needed to be stabilized.
With Hurricane Irene expected to arrive in D.C. by mid-day Saturday, packing forceful winds projected to be anywhere from 40 – 80 miles per hour, repair teams organized quickly to stabilize the chimneys as well as board over the skylights to prevent any falling bricks from breaking the lights.
The interior of the bell tower was reinforced Saturday morning prior to Irene hitting the city. Using a special lift brought in for the repairs, teams then worked on Monday and Tuesday morning (as seen in the picture) to stabilize the bell tower on the exterior.
The school’s large bronze bell, cast in 1883 by C. Schneider of Washington, D.C., and restored in 2009, was undamaged and remains in the bell tower.
Long-term repairs can occur while students and faculty resume use of the building. HSA officers, who worked with the city on the restoration of the Grant School and construction of the new wing, will be engaged with the architectural team and school system engineers and contractors to see that the national landmark bell tower and chimneys are fully restored.