The Mount Pleasant School east of Washougal re-opened to students and staff last week after closing for three days to fix a water leak that originated near a pump house just east of the school.
School leaders canceled classes Jan. 4-6, as contractors attempted to identify and fix the problem.
“This was not something that we anticipated,” Mount Pleasant Superintendent-Principal Cathy Lehmann said. “We thought (it would only take) a day or two and we’d be back.”
She added that Mount Pleasant administrators are glad the problem is now behind them. The school, which serves 67 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, will most likely have to apply for an emergency waiver from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction as a result of the temporary closure.
Washington law states that each school district must provide a minimum of 180 school days in each school year and at least 1,000 annual instructional hours to students in kindergarten through eighth grade. OSPI, however, is authorized to waive the school day and average instructional hour requirements for districts in the event of unforeseen emergency events.
“Between the fire evacuation day, the snow days, and now the water days, we are over whatever (extra days off were) built into the calendar, so we’re in a situation now where we’ll have to do a state waiver,” Lehmann said. “We can always add more days on, but we don’t really want to go into July, so we’ll look at adding some days on and then asking the state to forgive (the remainder of the required hours).”
Water supply mystery
Students and teachers first noticed the problem during their first day back to school after their holiday break, on Jan. 3.
“We had a late start because of ice. The kids came in, and throughout the day, the water pressure in the building was just getting lower and lower and lower,” Lehmann said. “The kids said, ‘The water fountain is not working,’ or, ‘The bathroom sink is trickling.’”
Lehmann contacted Innovative Leak Detection, a Washougal-based leak detection company, which sent technicians to inspect the school’s water lines the following day, on Jan. 4.
“They located two areas where they thought the leaks were,” Lehmann said.
But when the Vancouver-based Simpson Plumbing came to the school on Jan. 5 and dug in those two areas, they could not locate the source of the leak, Lehmann said.
Innovative Leak Detection technicians returned to the school on the morning of Jan. 6 and found a spot across the street from the school, near the pump house, in a neighbor’s driveway-yard area, Lehmann said, adding that the company believed the leak came from an underground irrigation box.
Mount Pleasant School families were “really supportive” throughout the week, Lehmann said.
“I haven’t had anyone (express) anger at the situation,” she said. “They understand, I think, that we’re doing what we can as fast as we can. There haven’t been any angry calls. Our families have been really tolerant and appreciate that we’re working on it.”