JHS, JMS Suffer from Water Damage During Christmas Cold Snap

By Jeremy Coumbes on January 3, 2023 at 9:45am

A Jacksonville Fire Department truck sits outside of Jacksonville Middle School on Monday, December 26th, 2022, after a fire suppression system alarm notified officials of a potential issue.

Ben Cox contributed to this story.

A pair of Jacksonville Schools suffered damage during the recent cold snap around the Christmas holiday.

Jacksonville School District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek says that the weather wreaked havoc at both Jacksonville High School and Middle School.

The Jacksonville Fire Department responded to a call of an alarm with water flow at the Jacksonville Middle School last Monday.

According to a police report, the automated call came in to dispatch just after 10 am. Jacksonville Fire Chief Doug Sills told WLDS News late last Monday morning, that no fire was found inside the school, which was unoccupied for the Christmas holiday.

Ptacek says the heater in the northwest vestibule failed to operate, and with the severe cold, the sprinkler line froze, and the sprinkler head failed. He says the pressurized system then started emptying into the vestibule triggering the alarm.

We were very fortunate for that and it was able to be shut down very quickly. We did get some water damage in the hallway, so the wall base- the cove around the bottom of the wall, that’s all been removed in that hallway. It will be reinstalled.

We are a little concerned about long-term lasting damage to the gym floor. So we will have to bring in some individuals to look at that to see if that needs to be replaced. So the water did get on the gym floor in one section for a bit. But that was it at JMS and we then thought our week was going to go smooth, until Tuesday.”

Last Tuesday Jacksonville High School staff returning from the Christmas holiday encountered a flood in the 200 hallway. Ptacek says sometime over the Christmas weekend, a pipe in an exterior wall froze and ruptured. The leak was in the food’s classroom, and the water reached the business computer lab at the other end of the hall located in the front of the building. Ptacek says that the carpet will now have to be taken out.

Actually we’re very fortunate, not much damage there. Some books that were left on the floor were ruined by the water. There was a rupture at the end of the 200 hall in the Foods/Home Ec rooms on Saturday of Christmas Eve. It basically just leaked into that hallway until Tuesday morning when everyone returned to work.

That water then went all the way down the 200 hall and the concern is it basically drenched the carpets, all the way through the 200 hall. It’s very old carpeting and with the water on it for as long as it was, we know at this point in time we are not going to be able to get rid of the smell, so we’re going to have to have all of that carpet removed.”

He says its fortunate hallway carpet was replaced with vinyl floor tile a couple of years ago. He says the district administration has been discussing replacing the carpet at JHS with vinyl tile, and this event has highlighted that need. He says the district is very fortunate with its fund balance they are able to begin that process now.

For now, Ptacek says classes in the 200 hallway will be moved for about two weeks while a company comes in and removes the old carpeting and grinds everything down to bare concrete. Vinyl tile flooring will likely be installed during the summer.

Jacksonville School District wasn’t the only district to suffer water leaks over the cold Christmas holidays. Pittsfield High School had a similar situation as JMS where the sprinkler system burst and emptied water into several classrooms on Christmas Day. The Pittsfield Fire Department responded and helped stopped the spread of the leak beyond those classrooms. The Greenfield Elementary School also had a pipe burst on Christmas Eve, causing the district and several community volunteers to come to the school to pack up classrooms so that water could be cleaned up and damages assessed.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day had high temperatures in the teens and lows in the single digits or below zero, with wind chills going down 20 to 30 below zero in some locations.