By Michael Howell
A frozen water pipe in the Hamilton Middle School burst and flooded the basement, destroying three boilers and a hot water heater last Tuesday, December 10. As a result, classes were cancelled the following day and a plan was quickly hatched to place the students at other facilities.
“We were lucky,” said Tom Korst, Hamilton School District Superintendent. “There was a custodian working that evening at a basketball game who discovered the leak and we were able to get things under control.” As it was the sunken boiler room was already filled three and a half feet deep with water. He said if it had not been detected that evening, the damage could have been much worse by the next morning. He said it could have affected the gym or there could have been more serious electrical damage.
Korst said the entire staff responded well to the disaster. He said he met with the principals of the district’s various buildings and food service and by 11 a.m. Wednesday had a plan together. Seventh and eighth graders were moved into the POD building on the Middle School campus, sixth graders went to Westview, the ALC students went to the high school and the pre-schoolers went to Head Start.
“The kids are adjusting. They are even enjoying the change,” said Korst, “especially now that the weather has warmed up.”
Korst said that they were speculating that the burst pipe was sort of a fluke due to the extremely cold sub-zero temperatures over so many days. He said there must have been some cold getting to the pipe over all these years but this was just too cold for too long.
Cost of replacing the three boilers and hot water heater have been initially estimated at about $70,000, but Korst expects that to go up with some additional expenses and probably reach something more like $80,000. He said the school’s insurance policy may cover all or part of that cost. With a deductible of $5,000, he said, the expense to the school’s general fund could be anywhere from $5,000 to $80,000. But that’s a far cry from his initial fears of facing a few hundred thousand dollars in damage.
“The bad news is that it happened,” said Korst. “The good news is that we are getting three new boilers.” He said the new boilers may be more efficient and could even save money on heating bills. He said the work was going well and that the building could possibly be open by this Friday, but they are not planning on a full return of all the students until after the holidays on January 6, 2014.
“All in all we are in pretty good shape,” said Korst. He said the credit goes to the entire staff and the students. “They showed themselves to be very resilient and adaptable. It brought us together as a team and we know that we can handle the unexpected and handle it well,” he said.