News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 31, 2013

Burst pipe floods Clay elementary school

Classes canceled, crews work to remove standing water and repair damage

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A ruptured boiler room pipe caused flooding at Forest Park Elementary in Brazil early Friday morning, leading to cancellation of classes districtwide.

About 3 a.m., a Brazil police officer making rounds noticed water coming out of a few doors on the west side of the school.

When school officials arrived, they found about two to four inches of water in the boiler room, as well as about 11⁄2 inches of water in hallways and the gym, said Mike Howard, Clay Community Schools director of extended services.

The water saturated carpet in one classroom, while three other classrooms and a lab had water-soaked carpet in a small area.

Water was quickly turned off.

Maintenance staff came in early and used wet vacs and carpet extractors, and the district also contacted Serv Pro.

The focus Friday was extracting water, while today, it will be cleanup and sanitizing “to avoid moisture issues,” Howard said.

Serv Pro also will use large commercial dehumidifiers and fans this weekend to dry out the school. Fortunately, the long Labor Day weekend should work in the school’s favor.

“Sometime Monday, we should have everything back together” and ready for everyone to return to classes Tuesday, Howard said.

Officials don’t know what caused the pipe to leak, but insurance will investigate.

Howard believes damages will be limited to some carpet and a vinyl base or trim at the bottom edges of the walls, which has to be removed to get to trapped moisture.

No furniture or electronic equipment has been damaged, he said.

District officials are thankful for the discovery of the leak by Brazil police. If the water had continued leaking for a few more hours, damages might have been worse and other parts of the school could have been affected, Howard said.

The missed school day will be made up on Friday, April 4.

Superintendent Kim Tucker made the call to cancel classes districtwide, she said. Because of the time of day the leak occurred, there was no opportunity to consult with the state Department of Education, she said.

While Forest Park might have qualified for a waiver, it’s a financial waiver only and she feared the loss of one day’s attendance by the school could hurt the entire school district in terms of accountability measures.

If Forest Park did not receive a waiver and had to make up the day, Tucker said she  again had concerns about attendance if just one school had to make up a missed day.

“I had to make a decision, and I determined it was in the best interest of the corporation and Forest Park to call off school,” she said.

She also praised the Brazil police department for discovering the water leak. “Had they not, the damage could have been more substantial,” Tucker said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.