Water line break at CAES may delay opening School Year's Eve, playground dedication also up in the air

Barriers block the entrance to the parking lot of Chester-Andover Elementary School. All photos by Shawn Cunningham

By Cynthia Prairie
©2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

A water main break at Chester-Andover Elementary School this morning may delay the school’s opening on Wednesday, Aug. 29 and waylay Tuesday’s School Year’s Eve plans and the dedication of its new playground.

Around 6:30 this morning, just six days from the start of school, school Facilities Director Jim Spaulding was conducting a routine check when he found 7 feet of water in the 484-square-foot boiler room.

Matt Wilson, chief of the Chester Fire Department that responded to the emergency 911 call, called Green Mountain Power to shut down the electricity.

The water “was just gushing,” said Principal Katherine Fogg, as she sat in the parking lot speaking with a reporter by cellphone. She added that the Chester Fire Department “drained a bunch,” but that ServePro Restoration Services would have to drain the rest. At this point, no one else is allowed on the property or in the building, and water, sewer and electricity are not functioning.

A handwritten sign tells visitors they cannot enter the building.

She said that that the boiler room is the only place in the building that is low and the water therefore did not seep into other areas of the building.

Chester Water Department Superintendent Jeff Holden attributed the break to “old infrastructure.” He estimates that break occurred around 5 a.m. and ran for two hours, dumping between 18,000 and 20,000 gallons of water into the boiler room by the time he could shut it off.

He added that no other properties were affected by the break.

Fogg said that a state Fire Marshal has already inspected the cleanup thus far and determined that the work is being done properly.

Cost of the damage has yet to be ascertained.

ServePro trucks sit outside the back of the school building as contractors work inside.

Meg Powden, superintendent of the Two Rivers Supervisory Union that oversees CAES, said  “If we can’t be opening on Wednesday, we’ll need to delay until it’s safe for everyone to return. We should have a good sense of that on Monday.”

“The fortunate piece,” she said, “is that it was contained in the boiler room. The unfortunate piece is that the heart of the building is the boiler room.”

Powden added that at the request of Fire Chief Wilson, a member of the CAES maintenance crew will be stationed at the school 24 hours a day until they can turn the electricity back on.

“We’re certainly disappointed” by this turn of events, Powden said, calling special attention to Spaulding and his staff for the “wonderful job they have done in getting the school ready for students over the summer.”

Fogg said she has notified all 63 faculty and staff members and families of the 243 students set to attend the school. “My hope,” she said, “is to climb the playset Tuesday night with my students.”

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia 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, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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