RMHS Memorial Wall Removed, Won't Return Before Graduation
Four of ten panels cracked after bolts fail.
When Reading Memorial High School students graduate on June 5, the school they leave will be missing one of its iconic features: the memorial wall outside of the entrance.
The school administration recently had the wall’s glass façade removed and put in storage after the discovering that it was no longer properly secured.
According Mary Delai, the district’s director of finances and operations, a structural engineer found that the bolts that held the façade in place weren’t drilled deep enough.
What’s worse, she said, upon removing the panels, the district discovered that four of the ten had cracked. The glass had spider-webbed where it hung on pins, she said.
But at least one school committee member viewed the problem with a silver lining.
David Michaud said that he wasn’t satisfied with the glass façade as it was installed in 2007. Plans for the project, he said, dictated that the words etched into the surface shouldn’t lay over white portions of the colored backing, a detail that was overlooked in the final fabrication.
Michaud said he was also dissatisfied with the glass etching itself, because it was too shallow to be clearly noticeable—a point emphasized by departing school committee student representatives Matthew Conway and Jared Beaulieu.
Beaulieu said that many RMHS students didn’t realize that the wall’s surface contained names, and Conway said that he, himself, had never noticed until he was left standing by the wall one day with nothing else to do.
Delai said replacing the four broken panels—including removal and installation—will cost about $41,000. Replacing all ten panels will cost about $58,000. Either way, she said, the work cannot be completed before graduation.
In the wall’s absence, School Committee Chairman Chris Caruso asked if the district could hang an American flag in its place—at least for the upcoming graduation ceremony.
“That would look better than the grey slab that’s staring us in the face right now,” Caruso said.
Superintendent John Doherty said he was looking into that, but the size of the wall and the logistics of respectfully securing a flag to it proved to be a challenge.