Cold snap leads to broken pipes, extensive damage

After a cold snap overnight, a water pump breakdown led to pipes bursting and water leaks all over the high school on Dec. 10

On Tuesday, Dec. 10, most students were thrilled to hear that school would be dismissing early; however, administration and the maintenance staff were left to clean up the mess. 

Athletics and activities director Troy Becker said, “We believe that one of the heating water pumps stopped working last evening, and when custodians arrived this morning they learned about it. We then proceeded to start the second standby pump to get heat water flowing again through the building. Once the building began to heat up, some of the coils that froze overnight and split, thawed and water started pouring out into the classrooms and through to the floors below.” 

Jeremiah Longnecker’s first hour Developing Nation’s class was the first room to experience trouble. 

Not thinking much of the noise she heard coming from the radiator since it “usually makes weird noises anyway,” senior Mia Dexter said nothing seemed out of the ordinary that morning. 

“I get into Longnecker’s room first hour. The bell literally just rang, and it’s pretty cold in there. I hear the radiator in the back of the room like hissing really loud, and I’m like ‘Oh, OK, whatever,’ but then I hear kids need to pick up their backpacks. ‘Everyone pick up your backpacks,’ and there was water rushing to the front of the room,” Dexter said.

Junior Abby Townsend, another member of Longnecker’s first hour class, also mentioned there was nothing out of routine going on leading up to the water flow. “We knew we were gonna take notes, so we were just starting talking to each other, but all the sudden we looked back and there’s just water on the floor like running out,” Townsend said.

Longnecker quickly called for a janitor once he was made aware of the problem. He said the custodial staff did a great job handling the situation, but was shocked this was even an issue to begin with. “I was surprised because I didn’t even know that water ran through those. That’s how ignorant I am. Even though I know we have boilers, I thought that it created steam. I was honestly very shocked.”

Noting that there’s an obvious space between the heater and the floor in his room, Longnecker was not surprised however when the problem began to spread to other rooms, especially the math department. “The biggest problem with this particular room was that the shut-off wouldn’t work, so it just kept running and running for a good, I don’t know, 10 minutes for sure. It just kept running, and that’s why it made its way out into the hall, and I’m guessing that’s why the math rooms got so destroyed,” Longnecker said.

With unfortunate luck, the problem had to get worse before it got better, Becker acknowledged. “We immediately called in our maintenance staff to work on the broken water lines. They pulled the coil in that room and isolated it so water could be turned back on for other rooms,” Becker said. “Once we did that, we had other lines start to leak from being frozen. We have pulled the broken coils and have sent them to be fixed. We found out that rooms 146 and 139 were also frozen.”

Multiple rooms in the math department also fell victim to the unexpected water. Linsey Zimmerman noticed the problem during her fifth period math class when the kids hollered out, “Mrs. Zimmerman, it’s raining back here.” She said the students helped her move swiftly. “The water was just pouring out of the ceiling,” Zimmerman said. “We grabbed things that were on the heater and started moving them and unplugging things. Electricity and water, you know?”

The following day, there were still four classrooms without heat, so temporary heaters were brought over to try to warm up those spaces throughout the night so they were able to be used again. Since the rooms were still cold, though, classrooms were moved to other available spaces in the building. 

Administration hoped that with the weather warming up as the week went on that those classes would soon be put back to use again.

Through the difficulties of moving students and teachers around, Becker said he’s proud of the way the situation was handled. “As always, our staff does a great job of stepping up and finding ways to help each other. It makes me feel really proud when I see them come together in tough situations and find ways to keep the learning and teaching going,” Becker said.

Zimmerman said her students amusement overpowered their fears. “We knew that it was happening all day, and we were just kinda waiting for it to happen to our room. They did pretty well. I would say they were more interested in getting their phones and recording it so they could show it to everybody. Nobody was panicked or anything,” Zimmerman said.

Longnecker also acknowledged how well his students handled the situation. “The students were great. They handled it really well. I think it’s like any other distraction. When we went to get into class, I said, ‘Alright, it’s time to go,’ and we got going again,” Longnecker said. “I was proud of my students. We got right back at it.”

Longnecker said he understands why this could’ve been a much bigger distraction and stressor than it turned out to be. “For some people it’s hard though. To have your day disrupted like that,” Longnecker said. “People in general, I won’t say just students, sometimes struggle dealing with that. Just that lack of continuity in the day, so I think we probably did that to a lot of people.”

Amongst all the chaos, the students were able to get a laugh out of the situation. Both Townsend and Dexter said they were laughing at the situation and were amongst the multiple students that immediately reached for their phones when the water began.

Longnecker also is now able to joke about the matter. “It was mostly amusement. This is what to expect from this school,” Longnecker said.

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