The large gym at L.J. Hauser Junior High School in Riverside has been closed until further notice, District 96 Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson announced in an email to parents on Monday afternoon. The gym was closed as a precaution after a heavy light fixture became detached from a ceiling panel sometime Friday morning.

“Hauser’s large gym is closed for inspection, removal and reattachment of new light fixtures to existing Tectum ceiling panels,” Lamberson said in his email. “On Friday, a light fixture became detached from its mounting; the fixture was removed from the ceiling by D96 maintenance staff.”

Tectum is a company that makes wood fiber acoustical tiles. The lights in the Hauser gym, which appear to be standard fluorescent tube lighting fixtures, were attached directly to the acoustical panels with screws.

Riverside resident Jerry Buttimer, who has been sharply critical aspects of the renovation of Hauser, Ames and Central schools last summer, was tipped off Friday about the detached light fixture and visited Hauser on both Friday and Saturday.

Buttimer was sent photos of the fixture from a source that he declined to identify. On Friday evening Buttimer sent an email to District 96 school board President Mary Ellen Meindl and Lamberson about the problem.

Buttimer says that based on what’s he has seen, he believes the fixture was not properly attached to the ceiling.

The fixture “was connected to the panel like a three-inch screw connected to a sponge,” Buttimer said. “This was not the first to drop. It was negligent and could have killed a kid, and the fixture was then hidden behind equipment in the back of a closet.”

Buttimer said that he has been told that this was the second time a light fixture has come loose at the Hauser gym since the renovation.

In his email to parents Lamberson emphasized that “Hauser’s large gym is the only location where light fixtures were attached to Tectum panels. Light fixtures in Hauser’s small gym and Ames gymnasium were bolted to steel girders. At Central, light fixtures were attached directly to laminated wood beams.”

Lamberson said that he has instructed District’s 96’s architect, engineering firm and electrical contractor to re-inspect the installation of light fixtures in the newly renovated gyms and provide him with a written report.

In addition, this week the light fixtures in the large gym at Hauser will be reattached using with stronger bolts rather than the wood screws that were used last summer.

“This week Meany Electric — summer 2012 electrical contractor — will begin the process of securing the lighting fixtures in Hauser’s large gym with toggle bolts rather than the commonly used current installation of four wood screws,” Lamberson wrote.

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