Frozen Sprinkler Pipe Cancels Monday Classes at Newport School
Sherry Roger, an estimator for Servpro, runs a vacuum in the media center to clean up debris caused by a burst pipe at Richards Elementary School in Newport. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Wet books sit on a library table. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Newport — Richards Elementary School is a mess — to put it lightly — after a frozen sprinkler pipe ruptured yesterday, sending thousands of gallons of water pouring over through three floors, damaging classrooms, the main offices and the library.
Classes today were canceled.
The Newport Fire Department received an alarm at 2:14 p.m. yesterday, and it took firefighters about 10 minutes to shut off the water to the sprinkler system at the school, which is just down the street from the fire department.
While the response was rapid, 10 minutes was enough time for water to do plenty of damage.
Lt. Jason Rook was one of the first responders on scene and could see water flowing off the roof, which immediately indicated to him that a pipe had broken. Once inside the building, he ran into the basement and shut the main valve off that controlled the sprinkler system.
Rook estimated that 500 gallons a minute could flow out of the sprinkler system — if not more. The water wasn’t dripping through the building, he said, it flowed.
The pipe that burst was about three-inches wide, and Fire Chief Wayne Conroy said the likely culprit was the frigid temperatures.
Parents will be notified by phone this afternoon whether or not classes will be held tomorrow. All other Newport schools are holding classes as scheduled.
“We will be evaluating the situation and making sure the premises were safe for the children to return,” School Board Chairman Gordon Flint Jr. said last night.
While Flint was optimistic that students could return by tomorrow, but Conroy said it could be much longer.
“We’re going to get it open as soon as we can, but it’ll be several days,” Conroy said.
The school’s fire alarm systems had to be shut down last night because water leaked into the system’s electrical panel, Conroy said. Officials will be on scene today to assess the damage to both the sprinkler and alarm systems.
Firefighters and two members of the town’s public works department were at the scene until about 5 p.m. yesterday to help clean up as much as they could. As soaked ceiling tiles fell around them, Conroy and about two dozen firefighters helped carry debris to a dumpster. Conroy said he planned to be back at the school first thing this morning to help assess the damage.
Three green vans from commercial cleaning and restoration company sat outside school last night as crews drug long blue hoses around the school to help vacuum up the water and placed green fans throughout the damp building.
A piece of yellow caution tape was strung across the front steps of the school, and through the glass doors, an exposed ceiling could be seen where tiles had fallen away.
The blue and tan tiled floor was caked in a thin layer of white muck and a small pile of crumbled ceiling tile sat in the middle of the entrance hallway.
At least four classrooms had water damage, as well as bathrooms.
One of the rooms was entirely emptied, except for three desks, so that the floor could dry overnight. Another room was in such disarray that it was difficult to tell that just days before it had been an organized classroom. Desks and shelves of books had been pushed to the middle of the room and the blue floor was wet and embedded with bits of ceiling tile. On the teachers desk, the computer and telephone were wet and covered with pieces of ceiling tile.
The carpet in the library was saturated, and one of the few remaining ceiling tiles dripped water onto the floor. The air was warm and humid last night despite two large fans.
A large portion of the books in the library were damp as well. On one rack of books, a piece of broken ceiling tile sat between a copy of Jack and the Beanstalk and a book about rescue boats. On a nearby shelf, a stuffed polar bear and monkey sat drenched.
Across the hall in the main office, trash bags covered a computer monitor and a scanner. Downstairs in the cafeteria, the same chalky residue lined the floor and maintenance workers from the cleaning company mopped water out of the kitchen. The crews were on scene until 8 p.m.
On the third floor, cabinets, books and bingo games lined the dry side of the hallway. A black plate and five coffee cups sat in a water fountain.
Several teachers were working in the building when the pipe broke, Flint said. The damage was concentrated in the older part of the elementary school that was built in 1896.
While students had the day off, faculty and staff were to report to the school today, Superintendent Irwin Sussman said.
Liz Sauchelli contributed to this report. Sarah Brubeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3223.