Some eager kindergartners will soon start their school careers, but a few days later than expected.

After a week involving engineering studies, mud and water cleanup and dryers, Rose Hamilton Elementary in Centerville was scheduled to open to students Tuesday, Aug. 15.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, teachers were to be allowed in their classrooms on the morning of Monday, Aug. 14, to prepare for a meet-and-greet with families from 5-6 p.m. that night. The school serves preschool through second grades.

Trying to smooth the registration process, Rose Hamilton staff conducted a separate event Thursday, Aug. 10, at Centerville-Abington Elementary to help families sign up for childcare, transportation and address other needs.

Centerville-Abington Community Schools Superintendent Mike McCoy said young pupils learn best in person rather than online, so they did not begin offering virtual instruction last week as they likely would have done for high schoolers if the emergency occurred there.

He has applied for a state waiver to exempt missed days.

“We want to get back in the building and do it the right way,” McCoy said. 

A muddy, wet hallway is shown at Rose Hamilton Elementary after the water was shut off the evening of Aug. 6. Supplied

The school was to have begun instruction on Wednesday, Aug. 9, but a water main break at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6, derailed those plans.

A teacher working in the building discovered flowing water and alerted administrators. McCoy said the “river” of water was flowing out the doors when he arrived. It was about 4 inches deep and was over his shoes.

He noted that Rose Hamilton has previously had leaks caused by frozen pipes, but the damage was “nothing like this.”

Nearly all the school was flooded, except one addition of kindergarten classrooms that was built slightly higher than others.

Culy Contracting found the culprit, an approximately softball-sized hole in a 4-inch pipe underneath a hallway and fixed the issue. Water service was restored Aug. 8.   

While waiting for an engineer’s assessment, also on Aug. 8, CACS officials prepared several plans for moving groups of students to locations throughout the corporation if extensive repairs were needed.

his is a view of the same hallway as it dried on the afternoon of Aug. 11. Supplied

However, only Room 31, which was next to the pipe, can’t be occupied because of the floor heaving. That classroom has been relocated within the building. The engineer found no other structural damage, determining that other walls receiving cracks aren’t load-bearing, which sped up the school’s reopening.  

Cleanup continued throughout the week to remove water, mud and related odors, and on Thursday, an expanded crew of more than 20 workers made “amazing” progress, McCoy said. That work was being concluded Friday, allowing weekend drying time before teachers returned.

After drying is complete, CACS will monitor the carpet’s condition because water removed its adhesive. If needed, the carpet could be replaced during a vacation, administrators said.  

McCoy was grateful that electricity could be turned back on quickly enough that chilled foods could be saved. 

Insurance should cover any losses of supplies, such as a few ruined cabinets, McCoy said, and no community donations were needed.  

School board members and administrators expressed praise at the Aug. 9 board meeting for speedy, flexible and selfless responses to the emergency from the many people involved, such as school employees and contractors.

Longtime board member Brad Lambright noted a sense of urgency among those involved, calling the emergency “one of the biggest things we’ve had to react to.” 

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A version of this article appeared in the August 16 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.