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Closed Again Tuesday: Ruptured Water Pipe Idles Newport School 

Newport — Richards Elementary School remained closed for a second day as workers continued cleaning up from Sunday’s ruptured sprinkler pipe that flooded three floors in a section of the building.

“We will reassess and go from there,” SAU 43 Superintendent Irwin Sussman said at the school yesterday about whether they could hold classes tomorrow.

The worst damaged caused by a ruptured pipe that was located in a drop ceiling was sustained by a special education classroom on the third floor, and the library situated below it.

“The library took the biggest hit,” said Richards Principal Phil Callanan.

By late morning, all of the books had been moved out and down the hall to another room where several staff members were sorting through them.

“We are seeing what can be saved and what has to go,” said Richards Librarian Viki Bridge, estimating about 25 percent of the 15,000 books will be lost. “Everything on the top level (of shelves) were lost. We also have to take all the carpeting out.”

Though the damage was extensive, less than 24 hours after the pipe ruptured all of the water was gone and large floor fans had dried out the floors and most of the carpeting. The broken and water-logged ceiling tiles had all been removed and tossed in a Dumpster outside the main entrance facing the parking lot.

On the ground floor, the kitchen and cafeteria, which are below the library and where there is no carpeting, had been completely cleaned and except for some missing tiles there was little evidence of any damage.

Firefighters worked Sunday night carrying out debris and professional cleaners arrived with large vacuum hoses to suck up the water.

Callanan said student classrooms, most of which are in the new structure, were not damaged.

“Now we are making sure the building is safe for the kids to move through,” he said.

But the special education room where the pipe ruptured won’t be ready anytime soon.

“This will stay closed,” Callanan said. “It will take extra work.”

To emphasize how the water flowed down more than across, Callanan noted that an adjacent room had minimal water on the carpet but was otherwise unscathed. Across the hall, the a remedial reading room was also described as “fine” with some wet carpeting.

The alarm went off at the fire station around 2:15 and the school district’s maintenance director, Alan Chase, estimates it was only about 10 minutes before the fire department, just a quarter mile away, arrived to shut off the water.

“But with a two-inch pipe that had 90 pounds of pressure, that is a lot of water,” he said.

The water came down through the ceilings as well as out into the hallway were it flowed down the main stairwell.

Sussman praised the rapid response.

“The first responders. They just did a fantastic job. This damage could have been far more extensive,” Sussman said.

Also at the school yesterday was the district’s insurance adjuster. SAU 43 Business Manager Chuck Stuart said it will be a couple of weeks for the damage assessment to be complete. Staff members are being asked to inventory the losses, which include some computers in the main office.

“The insurance company will pay replacement value, not depreciated value,” Stuart said.

Though it is suspected the pipe cracked after thawing following last week’s bitter cold, it has not been determined what happened, Callanan said.

The district’s other two schools, Newport Middle High School and Towle Elementary School, were open yesterday.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.

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