Cops: Partial collapse at Long Beach High

Stucco panels, insulation and wires that fell when

Stucco panels, insulation and wires that fell when a large area of drop ceiling collapsed lie in an area used for parking at Long Beach High School. (April 6, 2012) (Credit: Fred Kopf)

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The drop ceiling over the staff parking area at Long Beach High School collapsed Friday afternoon, sending half-inch-thick panels of concrete, wires and insulation to the ground, Nassau police said.

K-9 units searched for people after the ceiling gave way about 5:10 p.m., police said. But because it was Good Friday and school won't resume until April 16, no one was inside, police said.

The damage was on the ground level of the three-story high school, located in Lido Beach, school officials and police said. The ground level is a partly open parking area supported by columns beneath second-floor classrooms.

"It's a hung ceiling," said David Weiss, Long Beach schools superintendent, who was not at the scene. "There was no structural damage."

The school, built in 1971, has been undergoing construction and renovation for months.

The contractors were there Thursday and Friday, and they had cut a channel into the ceiling to make some upgrades, Roy J. Lester, school board vice president, said after inspecting the damage.

The ceiling had never been cut before, he said, and he thinks that wind might have blown in, causing a ceiling that had once been "completely sealed" to fluctuate.

Lester said he could see the concrete that supported the second floor and said it was "totally unaffected." He did not see any cars parked on the ground floor.

"The entire ceiling has to be replaced," he said. "It's like a kitchen after a big dinner. It looks like a mess, but it's really not that bad.

"In a way, it's part of God's plan that it happened right before we had a week off. It's going to be cleaned up and done by the time the kids come back," Lester said.

Town of Hempstead building officials will inspect the school, police said. Long Beach school district officials said they were assessing damages.

The school is undergoing renovations, part of a $92.7 million bond approved in 2009 to upgrade classrooms, buildings and fields. The district's website said construction of new rooms, building facade restoration and other improvements at the high school are expected to be done by December.

Lester said renovations include the west side parking area, opposite where most of the damage occurred.

At 9:30 p.m., engineers and facility personnel, with the help of the headlights of two pickup trucks, were still working.

With James T. Madore

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