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Major cleanup underway after school flood

ESSMY school to reopen Wednesday, superintendent says

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Thursday, May 15, 2014 06:30 pm

SCHOOL FLOOD – John Stiksma of Jaguar Water & Sewer Services in St. Albert cleans water and mud from the main foyer of ESSMY school on Tuesday afternoon after a large, pressurized water main failed beneath the building, forcing water into almost every part of the school.
SCHOOL FLOOD – John Stiksma of Jaguar Water & Sewer Services in St. Albert cleans water and mud from the main foyer of ESSMY school on Tuesday afternoon after a large, pressurized water main failed beneath the building, forcing water into almost every part of the school.
CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

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Marguerite d'Youville students will be back to school next Wednesday after an unexpected flood gave them a surprise seven-day weekend.

About 400 Grade 7 to 12 students evacuated École Secondaire Sainte Marguerite d'Youville late Tuesday after a broken pipe sent water gushing throughout the school.

The pipe in question was an eight-inch freshwater main in the school's utility room, officials on site told the Gazette Tuesday. The cause of the break is still under investigation.

The school's secretary spotted the water soon after it started gushing through the utility room's open door, said vice-principal Danielle Karaki.

The water, which was brown with silt, washed through the lobby and the hallways and flooded most of the school to a depth of one to four inches.

“It was a really strong flow,” Karaki said. “I think the whole school was covered in 15 minutes.”

About 95 per cent of the school was affected, said David Keohane, superintendent of Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools. School staff evacuated everyone from the school at about 2 p.m. as a result.

“Some of the water was flowing down the hallways and that was an impediment to learning,” Keohane said.

Karaki said the school had coincidentally practiced its emergency evacuation drill the previous day. Everyone was out in one-and-a-half minutes.

“We were really impressed.”

Since the evacuation occurred just a half-hour before the end of the school day, the students spent the afternoon outside and had an early dismissal.

“They had a nice afternoon recess,” Keohane said.

Crews moved in soon afterwards to mop up the mess. Most of the water was gone by late Wednesday, but the school will remain closed for the rest of the week.

Work to do

Crews will spend the weekend sanitizing the school and installing a new water line, Keohane continued. Only authorized personnel will be let into the building during this time due to health and safety regulations.

Grade 12 students were let in last week to collect their books so they could prepare for diploma exams, Karaki said. Crews have carefully packed everything else into boxes (one per student locker) for students to retrieve later.

Assuming it passes all approvals, the school will re-open Wednesday, minus its gym and portables, Keohane said.

“We have to see if we can salvage the (gym) floor,” he explained.

A lot of drywall in the portables needs to be replaced. Most of the rest of the school is made of cinderblock and was relatively unaffected by the water.

The board is still tallying the damage, but expects it all to be covered by insurance, Keohane said. A report on the cause of the flood is pending.

“These things can happen from time to time,” he noted, particularly due to seasonal temperature changes.

Teachers and students lost about three days worth of instruction because of the flood (they already had Friday off) and will have to speed up their lessons to make up for it, Keohane said.

This was likely the first time the school has ever had to be evacuated for any reason, Karaki said.

Keohane praised the school's staff and the division's crews for their swift response, which greatly reduced the potential damage to the building.

He also emphasized that this was a flood of drinkable, chlorinated water, not sewer water.


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