A crew sets up fans and dehumidifiers in the Conners Emerson School library Monday morning after a leak caused flooding in the Emerson building over the weekend. ISLANDER PHOTO BY BECKY PRITCHARD

Sprinkler system leak floods school

BAR HARBOR — Conners Emerson students got an unexpected day off Monday as school staff worked with industrial cleaners and excavators to repair and clean up after a leak in the sprinkler system in the Emerson building.

Sunday morning, police received a report that water was coming out of the school’s gym entrance. The police and fire department responded, with the Bar Harbor Water Division staff, who shut off water to the building.

Principal Barbara Neilly explained that the leak had come from the pipes that feed the overhead fire sprinklers. First, water had leaked out, forming “a river of ice around the school,” she said. Then it began leaking inside, in the sprinkler room.

“We had a wading pool in the gym, not to mention the library,” she said.

Custodian Kurt Lockhart estimated that some areas of the gymnasium floor had about four inches of standing water Sunday morning.

Firefighters turned off the power to check outlets and make sure the electric system was safe, Fire Chief Matt Bartlett said. They channeled water to floor drains to keep the flood from spreading to other areas of the school. Crews then “squeegied” water out of the building’s side doors for about two hours until the water was cleared.

Also on Sunday, electricians from G&G Electric restored electricity to the building once it was determined the electrical system was not affected by the flood. A team from Eastern Mold Remediation ran fans and dehumidifiers to dry out the flooded areas and equipment.

John R. Goodwin Constrction was also on site with an excavator, digging to give workers access to the sprinkler pipe to find and repair the leak.

“The good news is [the fifth and sixth grade] classrooms were not affected,” Neilly wrote to families on Sunday. “The bad news is we have water damage to the kitchen, cafeteria, band room, tech room library and gym.”

Lockhart said most of the bookshelves in the library were high enough off the ground that the books were not harmed by the flood. Small portable bookshelves were temporarily carted out.

“It is bad, but it could have been so much worse,” said Neilly. “It’s been terrific that everyone’s come together [to help the school].”

Since there was no electrical damage and the fire alarm system was working, she said, the building was safe to be occupied. School resumed on Tuesday, as the work continued.

“Currently drywall in all the affected areas is being pulled,” Neilly reported on Tuesday, “in addition to the library being packed and gutted in order to make repairs. All in all we were incredibly fortunate to have gotten back into school so quickly, with relatively minimal disruption.”

Bar Harbor school board chair Kristi Losquadro echoed that sentiment, writing in a Facebook post on Tuesday, “Once again, the administration, teachers, staff and even [Bar Harbor Police] Officer Tim Bland have gone above and beyond to get Conners Emerson open for school today! I know it’s going to be a hard day re-routing students and helping everyone adjust to chaos and mixed up routines. Thank you to all of you for rising to the occasion and doing what you all do best – taking care of our kids!”

Neally said the cafeteria, music room, and part of the gym would be back in use later in the week. Before- and after-school activities were cancelled for the remainder of the week.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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