Lincoln Academy quickly resumed a regular schedule after a failed storm drain forced school officials to cancel classes for one day last week, but clean up and remediation efforts are expected to continue well into February.
According to LA Director of Communications Jenny Mayher, the failed drain caused significant water damage in the area of the school’s main building known as the history wing. Fortunately, the damage was limited in scope to just a portion of that wing, Mayher said.
Unfortunately, that part of the building is a high traffic area, located within sight of the main office.
“One of the drains on the flat roof over on the history wing failed,” Mayher said. “It is an old cast iron drain that failed and so water got into the interior walls. This is the history wing, so it’s (Brian) O’Mahoney’s room, the health center … it is central and that is why we had to close school.”
Four social studies classrooms, the student health center on the main floor and the special education classroom in the basement immediately below are directly impacted, Mayher said. School officials are still attempting to dry out formerly water soaked areas.
Mayher said the leak started sometime after the custodial crew left the building the previous evening, Wednesday, Jan. 25.
“There is no way to know exactly when the drain started to fail,” Mayher said. “This rain and thawing snow is a more significant test of the drainage than we have had in a while.”
LA Facilities Director Bill Teel discovered the damage around 6 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, Mayher said. The decision to cancel school for the day was made about 45 minutes later after Teel and LA Head of School Jeff Burroughs assessed the damage.
“While he was prepared for some basement flooding, when he first arrived at 5 a.m. Bill was more concerned with getting icy sidewalks safe for pedestrians,” Mayher said.
Once inside the interior walls, the water damaged the walls, the floor, and ceiling tiles. Electrical and internet service to the building was briefly turned off as a safety precaution Thursday morning, Mayher said.
Until the damaged areas are repaired, the five classrooms will have to squeeze in and share space as best as possible, Mayher said. The health center will be temporarily relocated to a currently unused office in the Kiah Bailey Hall.
A contractor inspected the site over the weekend of Jan. 28-29 and found no structural damage, Mayher said. An insurance adjustor is expected to visit the site over the weekend.
Although a number of unknowns remain, Mayher said it is probable repairs and renovations related to the flood will not be completed before the school’s February vacation.
Until repairs are completed, hallway traffic in the history wing will be detoured around the damaged area.
On Tuesday, Jan. 31, Mayher said students are taking the disruption in stride, however, it is burdensome on some school staff members.
“The students are fine. They are rolling with it,” Mayher said. “It is the most burdensome on the custodial staff, and it is also rough on the teachers.”
The teachers in the affected rooms have lost access to a dedicated work space where they can prepare for classes and perform other duties as needed, Mayher said. Work related to the flood damage has been added to the work the custodial staff was already responsible for.
“They already have a day job,” Mayher said. “It’s not like the toilets stop getting clogged just because there is a crisis in the history wing.”
Mayher said the school frequently deals with leaks in various areas during major weather events, but those areas are identified, and the leaks are uniformly small, and weather dependent. The leak in the history wing was significantly larger in volume than the known leaks, and was very much an unwelcome surprise.
Mayher credited the attentive response by the school’s facilities team for having the school ready to reopen on schedule Friday, Jan. 27. She pointed out the wildly fluctuating temperatures this winter create challenging conditions for the facility.
“There is no way we would be able to get back to school tomorrow without the quick work and attention to detail of our maintenance and custodial crew,” Mayher said Jan. 26. “They care deeply about the school and work tirelessly to make sure we have a safe learning environment even when it means long hours for them. This was true during the pandemic and it continues to be true now.”