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Posted at 08:26 AM ET, 08/24/2011

After quake, Washington-area schools undergo inspections

UPDATE 8:45 a.m.

Schools across the Washington area are undergoing safety inspections after Tuesday’s earthquake. Those in the District and Prince George’s County, where classes began Monday, are shut today as a precaution.

D.C. school officials, in an overnight reversal, went from closing just three schools today to shutting the entire system so that structural engineers could examine buildings.

In Montgomery County, where classes are scheduled to begin Monday, officials said that principals and building services staff found minor damage overall after initial walkthroughs.

In some places, there were cracks in walls and cinder blocks (possibly from before the quake), as well as damaged ceiling grids, cracked windows, popped sprinkler head caps, fallen light fixtures and a couple broken pipes, according to Brian Edwards, chief of staff for the Montgomery system. Cleanup is under way. “There was nothing major,” Edwards said in an email.

In Prince George’s, where there were numerous reports of damage, officials also were assessing campuses.

In Anne Arundel County, where schools opened Tuesday, there were no closures today after inspections turned up no major concerns, according to a statement on the system Web site. Calvert and St. Mary’s county school officials said on their Web sites that schools would open today as scheduled.

D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said in a statement released at 6 a.m.: “Understanding the impact to working parents and families, we made every effort to keep schools open,” Chancellor Kaya Henderson said in a statement released at 6 a.m. “However, we felt it would be best to have qualified structural engineers thoroughly inspect all 126 school buildings so our parents and community members could feel confident we’ve placed the highest priority around ensuring the safety and well-being of their children.”

Shortly before 11 p.m. last night, Henderson’s office announced that all D.C. schools with the exception of MacFarland Middle School and Roosevelt and School Without Walls High School would open on time.

In Northern Virginia, where most schools open after Labor Day, officials reported limited and mostly superficial damage. In Loudoun County, where classes resume Monday, schools spokesman Wayde Byard said that there have been no reports of damage and that all facilities are open.

In Fairfax County, where school starts on Sept. 6, damage was initially reported at 74 schools. After inspections, officials said, all were cleared to open except Bull Run Elementary School. Details on that school’s condition were not immediately available.

Staff writer Emma Brown contributed.

By , and  |  08:26 AM ET, 08/24/2011

 
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