Saturday two workmen rehung the exit doors to the so-called “bump-out” room at L.J. Hauser Junior High School in Riverside. The doors were rehung because they were installed incorrectly last summer when the room was constructed as part of the renovation of Hauser.

The room was squeezed into a spot of open space between Hauser and Central School. One exit door was supposed to open 180 degrees, but until Saturday it only opened 90 degrees to create a narrow passage way to open space between the buildings when exiting the room.

“We had the door frame moved out four inches,” said District 96 Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson. “It should have been installed four inches further to the outside. I am disappointed. The work should have been performed as designed.”

The corrective work was done Saturday by two men who said they work for Jim Anderson Construction. The men, who declined to give their names, said they received the assignment on Friday afternoon. That was the same day that the executive director of the office that supervises schools in the western suburbs informed Lamberson that her office would inspect the room this week.

“I just left messages for the superintendent, and I did send him an email on Friday,” said Kay Poyner Brown, the executive director of West 40 Intermediate Service Center Number Two. Poyner Brown effectively serves as the equivalent of a regional superintendent of schools.

Lamberson said on Monday that the decision to rehang the doors had nothing to do with the upcoming inspection by West 40.

“I know you’re very suspicious,” Lamberson told a reporter asking about the repair with respect to the upcoming inspection. “I don’t want you connecting too many dots that aren’t connected.”

Lamberson said he didn’t know of any meeting scheduled with West 40.

“I do not to my knowledge have a meeting scheduled, but that could change radically when I take a look at my calendar,” Lamberson said.

Lamberson said that recently the district’s architect, Mark Miller, had discovered that the doors were not installed correctly when doing an inspection related to work to be done on the bump out room this summer.

“One of Mark’s staff members was out doing the final tabulation and measurements,” Lamberson said. “He measured the distance and opened the door and determined it had been hung incorrectly, four inches too far into the door jam.”

Miller said that he discovered sometime, probably after the April 16 school board meeting, that the doors had been hung incorrectly. He said that once the mistake was discovered the decision was made to fix the doors as soon as possible.

“The district decided to do that immediately after that was found out,” Miller said.

Why did it take nearly eight months to discover that the door didn’t open as far as it should have, creating a potentially dangerous situation in a rushed emergency exit?

“I don’t have an answer for that,” Lamberson said.

But Lamberson downplayed any danger that students were placed in.

“The door always opened,” Lamberson said. “From what I was told there was approximately the same exiting space going out from that little outdoor area toward the street as there was getting out of the room itself. In terms of being able to get out of the room, it appears as though that would have never been an issue, because those spaces are relatively equal.”

On April 1 the Office of the State Marshall did a surprise inspection of Hauser and Central Schools, after receiving a complaint from Riverside resident Jerry Buttimer. The fire marshal found eight violations, including five at Hauser, according to a copy of the fire marshal’s report, which was provided to the Landmark by West 40.

Violations at Hauser include the lack of illuminated exit signs at the exit of the bump out room and the lack of self-closing doors in the bump out room and two third-floor classrooms.

“Those violations are not considered life-threatening issues, but the school needs to repair them,” said Milly Santiago, a spokeswoman for the Office of the State Fire Marshall.

Lamberson said that the district is working on making the necessary fixes. He also noted that the fire marshal apparently did not notice any problem with the exit doors.

“It is still amazing to me that if it was a concern in terms of egress it didn’t appear on the fire marshal’s report, since he spent so much time in that space,” Lamberson said.

The L shaped bump out room is now used as a multipurpose room. Choir practice is held there before school and some classes including keyboarding, and advisory class are also held there.

It is currently an unfinished space with a concrete floor, exposed duct work and a two story high ceiling. Plans call for the space to be finished this summer.

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