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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Water leak at WMS causes damage over holiday break

Glendive Public Schools administrators continue to be beset by the litany of foibles present in their ever-aging school buildings, with the latest incident at Washington Middle School narrowly missing what could have been another complete disaster.

The kitchen staff at WMS returned to the school from Christmas break on the morning of Jan. 2 to find the kitchen area flooded with several inches of scalding hot water and the entire kitchen area awash in hot steam and condensation, as one of the pipes running to the school’s boiler had ruptured. 

“It was a mess,” said Superintendent Stephen Schreibeis.

That’s not the first time that has happened at WMS in recent years, and Principal Mark Goyette said his first thought when he got the call that morning was a sinking fear that the pipes under the gym floor had ruptured yet again, which has already happened three times in just the last three years, leading to either complete or partial replacement of the gym floor each time. Moreover, the last time it happened, the school’s insurance carrier informed them they would not cover another gym floor loss due to the steam pipes rupturing.

“My first thought was please don’t get to the gym floor, please don’t get to the gym floor,” Goyette said.

Schreibeis, who was principal at Jefferson Elementary School when that school’s basement completely flooded just before the start of the 2016 school year, said he also got a lump in his throat when he got the call that morning, initially fearing it might turn into a similar situation as what happened at Jefferson.

Fortunately, WMS turned out to be a little luckier, at least this time around. Schreibeis said that it appears the leak had not been going for very long, maybe for no longer than the day before, which was a stroke of luck compared to it happening earlier during the holiday break. 

“It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. We don’t think it had been running for that long,” he said.

Exactly where the leak happened also turned out to be fortuitous.

“Luckily, it was in an area where there were drains, so that probably took care of a lot of the water,” Schreibeis said.

Those factors meant that the leak was “nowhere like Jefferson” in the end, he noted, but it still created a heck of a mess.

“The problem was that it was very hot water,” Schreibeis said. “So it created this steam bath and there was condensation on everything in there. There was water dripping from the ceiling; it was just everywhere.”

Both Goyette and Schreibeis credited WMS kitchen staff, custodians and other staff members for rallying early that morning to begin cleaning up all the water and steam in spite of the absolutely miserable working conditions that created.

“Because of the quick response from everyone in our district, we were able to save a lot of stuff,” Schreibeis said. “So kudos to the people for all of their help.”

However, while this latest incident missed being a total disaster for WMS and the district, Goyette said he can’t help but wonder when the next shoe is going to drop.

“It makes you just wonder what’s next with the plumbing in our school,” he said.

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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