Last month, Cahill Elementary in the Saugerties Central School District (SCSD) unwrapped an unwanted gift as a pipe burst on the third floor of the school on Christmas Day.
SCSD Superintendent Kirk Reinhardt discussed the issue, along with the district’s quick response, during a meeting of the Board of Education held on Tuesday, January 10.
“First of all, I want to thank the faculty and staff throughout the entire district,” Reinhardt said. “By the time I got there (on December 25), there was probably well over 20 of our custodial and maintenance staff helping us…I mean, when I first showed up and saw the water running down the stairs, I was concerned.”
The pipe that burst above a third floor classroom sent water streaming through the ceiling and into classrooms and hallways all the way to the ground floor. The damage was heavy, Reinhardt said, with special education teachers in four classrooms and two speech teachers in two different rooms among those most significantly impacted.
According to Reinhardt, the district was in touch with a company that performs cleanup and reconstruction within hours of the first reports of the burst pipe, which damaged everything from ceiling tiles to electrical circuitry.
“The water came down right through the ceiling,” Reinhardt said, noting that it even reached the basement level, where historic arches that were part of the original school hang over a storage area. Reinhardt said the hope was that the arches, along with much of the structure of the building itself, was salvageable.
“(The arches are) pretty impressive,” Reinhardt said, adding that when the water-logged drywall was removed from a basement hallway, a small storage area was revealed that was also likely part of the original building. “I’m not sure if that was like a coal shaft or something, but that was pretty cool.”
Within two days of the pipe bursting, Reinhardt said, hallways were already dry and on their way to being repaired, and classrooms from the upper floors on down were given attention. The superintendent said he was impressed by how quickly the work was being performed, particularly as it was happening over a holiday week.
“When we met with them, my expectation was, ‘Whatever you do, we have to open safely on the morning of January 2,’” Reinhardt said. “We did a walkthrough with the company and they’ve done an amazing job.”
One hallway in particular, a conduit between the main part of the building and the cafeteria and library, had to be ready by the end of winter break, Reinhardt said.
“We insisted that regardless of what happened, that hallway had be open prior to the students coming in,” said Reinhardt.
While that hallway opened in time for kids to use it upon returning to school, other areas like classrooms may take up to six weeks to be completed. Reinhardt said part of that is due to work being unable to be done during school hours when students are in the building. A second floor hallway should be complete by mid-January, with other areas reopening over the coming weeks.
“The company’s done an amazing job,” Reinhardt said, adding that the staff, particularly those directly impacted by the water damage, has shown flexibility in adapting quickly to holding classes in temporary classrooms. And for the most part, to the degree that it’s possible while work to repair the damage continues, Reinhardt said things have gotten back to normal at Cahill Elementary School.
“It was crazy for a couple days, but we’re open and the building is safe,” Reinhardt said.