UPDATE: Water Damage Will Close NHS Through At Least Tuesday

UPDATE: Water Damage Will Close NHS Through At Least Tuesday

Published: 06.02.2023 13:12

The sight and sound of dripping water cascading down all three floors of Newtown High School’s F Wing in the “newest” section of the Berkshire Road building, where students typically engaged in class or sat down to lunch, was amazing terribly out of place.

As was the sight of cleaning contractors with three-foot-wide mops pushing nearly an inch of standing water down a third-story corridor more than five hours after a broken water pipe was discovered Monday morning.

Chris Melillo, Superintendent of Schools, toured The Newtown Bee through damaged areas just after 11 a.m. and explained that by the time he and Facilities Director Bob Gerbert were notified of the potential damage by the on-site caretakers, buses were already rolling out for the first pick-ups. Instead of messing up the entire city’s bus schedule, Melillo decided to keep taking the high school students to school, do as much shortened work as possible, and then fire everyone at 10 a.m.

Parents and carers were informed immediately by the caretaker.

Meanwhile, the students, who normally occupied about 40% of the facility’s classroom space affected by the water main burst, were temporarily relocated to the gymnasium and auditorium, which were unaffected.

“All damage is confined to the far end of the building,” the superintendent said, gesturing toward the cafetorium at the far west corner of the sprawling 184,000-square-foot facility. He said the cause of the rupture has not yet been determined.

“[Professionals] need to determine if [the pipe burst] from the cold, or if it’s something else,” he told The Bee.

Although he said high school classes would not be able to resume for at least Tuesday, Feb. 7, Melillo planned to play scheduled basketball games as scheduled at the gym Monday night.

As the preliminary cleanup continued, the Superintendent walked past rooms and hallways that still had noticeable amounts of water on the floor and dripping from the ceiling, as well as soggy books and materials on desks and shelves.

He said an early estimate was that some technology, including ceiling-mounted projectors and some servers, as well as the school’s Wi-Fi system, were affected.

Melillo believes it will be “at least a few days” before the extent of the damage is known. The technical equipment cannot be evaluated “until it has completely dried up,” he added.

Some classrooms also had damaged ceiling panels and fixtures.

“The affected area is about 40 percent of our classrooms,” he said.

With no security guards in the building on Sunday, it was impossible to tell when the leak started, Melillo said. But the source was eventually identified as a water pipe between the ceiling and roofline of the third floor between a classroom and a common area near the west end of the newest building extension.

“When the guards arrived around 5:30 a.m. and did their tour of the building, that area was the farthest point,” Melillo said. Despite this, he and Gerbert were made aware of the issue at 6am when the decision was made to maintain all local transportation routes as status quo.

The superintendent said students and parents would be notified shortly of Tuesday’s closure and any further closures would be determined as educators and staff returned to specific areas of the compromised wing to assess damage to materials and technology.

Stay tuned for updates as this story develops and check out some videos of the damage on The Newtown Bee’s Facebook page.

A BELFOR Property Restoration contractor, left, rolls a giant vacuum machine carrying large squeegees and mops to other workers to push water from a burst pipe at Newtown High School to a collection point in the third floor hallway of the school’s newest F wing Monday , February 6, 11 a.m. The school will remain closed for classes until at least Tuesday as officials determine the extent of damage from a pipe that burst sometime over the weekend before it was spotted by guards who returned to the facility Monday morning. – Bee photos, Voket

Newtown Superintendent of School Chris Melillo steps into standing water just outside the Newtown High School cafeteria, two floors down, where a water pipe burst between the third floor ceiling and the roofline sometime over the weekend after staff left the building.

Water was still dripping onto the kitchen floor of the ground floor cafeteria around 11:00 am Monday, almost five hours after a burst water main was discovered on the third floor.

Part of the ceiling tiles and some fixtures can be seen on the floor and desks in one of the affected 3rd floor classrooms on January 6, hours after janitors arrived for the week they discovered a broken pipe, allowing water through all three Cascaded floors from Newtown High The school’s newest F wing.

Newtown High School staff exit the building, passing two trucks belonging to a restoration company working to clean up the mess after a pipe burst over the weekend and water poured into all three floors of the building’s far west end.