CAES 2nd-6th graders to temporarily move to GM Classroom space still sought for k-1st graders after water damage closes school

Fogg indicates the 7-foot mark where water rose in the boiler room. The floor of room is several more steps below her. Click the photo to launch the gallery. Photo by Cynthia Prairie.

By Cynthia Prairie and
Shawn Cunningham

©2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

A second water main leak at Chester-Andover Elementary School damaged carpeting and other items in two classrooms Monday morning, ensuring that the school’s reopening will be delayed “four to six weeks” even as administrators have set Thursday, Sept. 6 for classes to begin in alternate locations.

Late Tuesday night, Two Rivers Supervisory Union Superintendent Meg Powden said that they had arranged for CAES’s 2nd through 6th graders to be moved to classrooms at Green Mountain Union High. Meanwhile, she and CAES Principal Katherine Fogg continued to search for a suitable location for the kindergarten and first graders, who will be “located at either one church or two churches near our school. ”

Both school officials had hoped to have solid plans in place by noon on Tuesday, but that deadline ticked by with no firm solution.

The complexity of the situation involves not only finding suitable classroom and bathroom facilities for 14 classes and 243 children, but coordinating with teachers, kitchen staff, floating school personnel such as nurses and reading specialists, figuring out new bus routes, finding space for administrative staff and records and also managing the initial furniture move to a temporary site or sites.

The problem began early last Friday morning, when what officials thought was a break in the 4-inch water main from Main Street to the school flooded the building’s boiler room, damaging electric panels, boilers and other equipment necessary to operating the school.

With water, sewer and power to the school shut off, school employees and hired crews began the cleanup. The Chester Fire Department had to pump more than 18,000 gallons of water — 7 feet deep — from the room. Since then, school officials, working with the town, the state and local companies and churches have been gathering information to prepare to get the school’s 243 pupils into classrooms within a few days.

Fogg and Superintendent Meg Powden put the new playground pavilion to good use as they discuss plans for getting school started. Photo by Cynthia Prairie.

By Monday afternoon, Chester Water Department Superintendent Jeff Holden confirmed that Friday’s flood actually was caused when one of the flange bolts holding the water meter in place broke.

With the bolt repaired on Monday morning, Holden turned on the water only to find another leak was sending water into the classrooms on the south end of building, closest to Main Street. Onsite crews immediately started sweeping water out the back door as Holden shut off the water supply once more. The two classrooms affected were the Grades 5/6 rooms of Frank Kelley and Jeremy Kelloway.

With that setback, school officials face the added burden of laying an all new water line and checking for damage to the floor and foundation of the two classrooms.

Crews work to replace 4-inch valve with a new 8-inch valve on the water main main in front of CAES Tuesday. Photo by Shawn Cunningham.

Dating from the 1960s, that section of the school was built over the buried water main to the original 1956 structure, making the main inaccessible. According to Holden, school officials were told by the State Fire Marshal that, for firefighting needs, they would have to replace the 4-inch main with an 8-inch one. This would involve some engineering since power and sewer are also buried in the area. On Monday evening, Holden told The Telegraph that on Tuesday morning, a new 8-inch valve would be installed on the street main to be ready for when the pipe to the school is installed.

During the run up to the vote on the water upgrade, which replaced aging mains on Route 103 South and located a second water tank on a hill southeast of Green Mountain Union High School, Holden and engineer Naomi Johnson recommended that Phase 2 of the project include replacing the main that feeds the elementary school.

CAES water main staging for repairs. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

Fogg said on Monday that the classroom carpeting “is the least of our worries.” With waterpipes running  beneath that part of the school, “They are going to have to tear up the water line and (locate new pipes elsewhere). All that piping is too old and too narrow and not in a good location.”

On Tuesday, Powden gave a rough estimation of about two weeks to get all the paperwork done while at the same time, four to six weeks to get the electric panels replaced. Those panels will also be upgraded from 400 amps to 460 amps.

Fogg and Powden agree that it will be “four to six weeks” before the children can return to the building.

Fogg, left, and Powden discuss repairs and timelines. Photo by Cynthia Prairie.

Fogg acknowledged the stress parents must be going through as they try to work their schedules around what up until now has been an unknown timeline. “The great thing is that people are just asking how they can help. They are bringing food to the work crews and offering to help. They have been so kind.”

An in-service day for teachers will be held at NewsBank and a low-key back-to-school event for parents are planned for Wednesday, Sept. 5, said Fogg on Monday. While this won’t replace the School Year’s Eve and playground dedication celebration that was to take place Tuesday night, Fogg said she’ll save the “big celebration” for when she, her 63 faculty and staff members and 243 students return to the building.

In Monday’s incident, water came through closet floor, left, spilling into two classroom. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

As for what this delay will mean at the end of the school year, Fogg said she is “hoping the state will understand that this is an emergency and forgive most of those lost days.” Powden confirmed that she intends to seek a waiver.

State Education Secretary Dan French said in an email Monday night, “I am consulting with the Governor’s Office and other state agencies. We considered state properties in the region that might be used but none of them are as appropriate or convenient as those being put forward by the superintendent.”

Concerning the cost, French said, that they “are still being determined. I believe insurance will cover the bulk of the costs for damage to the school building and its contents. Local taxpayers will probably pick up the remaining costs.”

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Great coverage by both of you. Thanks!

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