AUGUSTA — School superintendents across the state are being asked to make sure school roofs are safe, according to an advisory issued Friday by Maine Commissioner of Education Angela Faherty.

She asked superintendents to be aware of the hazard and take appropriate action to protect students, staff and buildings.

“Many of our schools have added insulation to conserve energy,” she said. That can mean more snow accumulating on roofs. Before, the snow melted from heat escaping from the building.

As of Friday, no school buildings had collapsed this winter from heavy snow loads. A number of buildings have collapsed in New England in recent days from too much snow.

Lewiston and Auburn school superintendents said their staff was already checking roofs, and snow was being removed or will be removed.

Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster said he had talked about snow on roofs with his facility director.

“We have done an assessment of all our roofs,” Webster said Friday. “Those we have concerns with have been taken care of, or we’re in the process of taking care of.”

Some places have 3 feet of snow on the ground and many school roofs are flat.

“We have been fortunate,” Webster said. “We’ve had below-freezing temperatures. The snow is fluffy and dry.” The weight of snow on roofs becomes more of a worry when there’s rain, which makes the snow heavier, he said.

While several school roofs are flat, several have slight slopes and internal drains that help reduce the snow load, Webster said. Internal drains and slopes mean snow melt goes down the pipes, which are inside so they don’t freeze.

“Flat roofs are going to have significant impact from the sun melting snow,” as opposed to snow on the ground, Webster said.

Auburn Superintendent Tom Morrill said his staff also was planning snow removal on some of the more critical roofs.

Roofs of new schools, such as Park Avenue Elementary, or new roofs can support heavier loads.

“But with the older sections of some of our schools, like the flat roof on Fairview and back side of Washburn, we do plan to do snow removal the first of next week. We’re lining up crews,” Morrill said.

When snow on roofs approaches 24 inches, that’s when the snow is removed, Morrill said. Facility maintenance staff have measured the snow on roofs. “We’re looking at settled snow of less than 20 inches,” Morrill said Friday, adding that more snow is on the way this weekend, and another storm mid-week.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.