Red Oak ISD: Builder agrees to pay for Shields Elementary tornado repairs

- More than two months after a tornado hit Shields Elementary School in northern Ellis County on Dec. 26, Red Oak ISD confirmed Thursday that the original builder of the school, Ratcliff Constructors, has agreed to pay for the repairs.

Fox 4's Lori Brown began investigating concerns about the quality of construction at the school in Glenn Heights after an exterior wall collapsed in the tornado.

Structural engineering expert Tim Marshall was contracted by the National Weather Service to survey the scene shortly after the tornado. He raised concerns about the school’s construction.

“When you get there and see the walls have fallen like a house of cards, I’m aghast by it,” Marshall told Fox 4 on January 4.

According to an independent engineering firm later hired by Red Oak ISD, the damage was worse than it should have been.

The district’s January 28th report based on the firm’s findings detailed problem after problem with Ratcliff’s construction. The report included photos and examples of “missing screws”, “improper clip installation” and “fasteners not having enough penetration” through the concrete.

Shields Elementary students have been attending a temporary school five miles away since the tornado.

Parents at the school told Fox 4 Thursday they are happy to hear Ratcliff will be footing the bill.

“I think they should,” said Kellye Odlozil. “That’s the contractor’s job to make sure hooks are in the right place and the school is sturdy. Because thankfully it was the day after Christmas and there were no kids in the school. It could have been a lot worse than a knocked down wall.”

Fox 4 asked grandparent Kathy Holliday why she thinks it’s important for builders to construct schools correctly.

“My grandchildren are in it!” Holliday said.

While Red Oak ISD said in an e-mail Ratcliff will “monetarily cover the repairs and associated fees for designing those repairs,” the district hired a different contractor to do the work.

Fox 4 called and e-mailed Ratcliff Constructors repeatedly since January to respond to the district’s report. A Fox 4 crew also stopped by the company’s offices in person. So far, Ratcliff Constructors has not responded to any of our questions.

The agreement between Red Oak ISD and Ratcliff Constructors is so new, the school superintendent will not comment on it yet and a dollar amount for the repairs has not been released.

Red Oak ISD also said Thursday the building inspector who signed off on Ratcliff’s work has not been cooperating and the district is now seeking mediation with that inspector.

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