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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Juneau Elementary School closed indefinitely after flood damage

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A person is in a library with a cell phone
Mark Ibias, a senior maintenance technician in Juneau School District, is on a flooded carpet in the Riverbend Elementary School Library on Thursday, January 13, 2022. Two pipes exploded at the school and they flooded almost two-thirds with water. Ibias says they have been struggling to dry and clean it for several days. (Rashah McChesney)

There were so many fans blowing at Riverbend Elementary School on Thursday morning that it sounded like a jet was taking off inside.

Two pipes, one in the common area where the children eat their meals, another in the nursing office, exploded during a cold season and flooded most of the school.

The weekend was bad weather and no one was at school when the pipes burst, so they don’t know how long it was filling with water. The day Riverbend was supposed to open to the students, the school janitor showed up early to clear the snow and found the mess.

He said custody and maintenance staff cut off water and electricity first. A dozen of them have been rushing to clean and dry the school ever since.

“It’s been crazy. It’s been crazy, crazy,” said senior maintenance technician Mark Ibias. When asked if he has slept, he jokes, “What’s that word?”

The inspection team looked at the floors, the furniture; they talked about the damp concrete under the library carpet.

“Mostly the mold,” Ibias said. “I mean, every time you have moisture, you get some kind of bacteria,” he said.

Riverbend Elementary School principal Elizabeth Pisel-Davis flips through a basket of books full of water that used to sit on the floor of her office. (Photo by Rashah McChesney / KTOO)

At least two-thirds of the building has been affected. Ibias said part of it was under almost three inches of water.

The school district sent an e-mail after the inspection team left saying it would take several weeks to repair the school, much of the floor, carpet and gypsum boards had to be replaced.

Teachers have not yet returned to Riverbend to completely catalog everything that has been damaged. In the email, the school district said they will have to pack their classrooms and take everything out so construction teams can pass.

Elizabeth Pisel-Davis is the director of Riverbend. He passed by the school on Thursday and said he has already seen some things that will definitely need to be replaced. Some of the nursing office drawers were full of water, so they will need new supplies.

“We’ve had a couple of computers that I know were affected. Some iPads that were hit,” he said.

Other damages may take longer to find out, such as in the library. None of the books are wet.

Pisel-Davis points to the wet shelves in the Riverbend Elementary School library. (Photo by Rashah McChesney / KTOO)

“But if you look closely at the shelves,” Pisel-Davis crouched down to point to a corner of one. “Do you see how they’re starting to break at the bottom?”

Most school furniture is made of cardboard, because it is cheap.

“But it’s also a big sponge,” Pisel-Davis said. So something like pressed cardboard furniture sitting in the water?

She believes insurance will cover many of those losses. And expect them to cover the cost of replacing any material that teachers have lost.

The whole situation is stressful, and it accumulates in the COVID-19 pandemic and all the other things that teachers are going through right now as they return to face-to-face learning during the largest increase in new cases the city has seen. . far.

When he saw photos of his school underwater, Pisel-Davis said he cried.

“Even though they are just things, it is our school and they are things that children use. Just the amount of work my teachers have already done this year, I just knew this was a step too far for them, ”he said.

Still, even though she was talking about frustration and sadness, there are a few small moments in all the chaos that make her smile.

Musical instruments were piled up, up and away from the wet carpet at Riverbend Elementary School. (Photo by Rashah McChesney / KTOO)

Walking towards the library, he grabbed a corner into a dark room where a pile of musical instruments was tucked away in a corner. When the guards came in and found all the water, they made sure to get to this room and move all the instruments up and away from the soaked carpet, including a set of xylophones that the Lemon Creek inmates made because the children would use them. home during the pandemic

A community company came up with industrial equipment to help vacuum the water. Pisel-Davis has also heard a lot from her parents. Basically, there is an army of volunteers waiting to be told when and how to help.

And the children are approaching.

“I’ve already received a couple of texts from parents of children who were worried about my turtles,” he said.

Peanut Butter and Jelly, two turtles that live in the office of Riverbend Elementary School principal Elizabeth Pisel-Davis, safe and dry on their premises. (Photo by Rashah McChesney / KTOO)

Pisel-Davis keeps these turtles, peanut butter and jelly in an open space in his office under a desk.

“Children come and read or hang out [them] when they just need a break, “he said.” And a couple of kids said, ‘What about turtles, okay?’ And my turtles are fine. ”

She said she didn’t even have to ask for them. The custodians sent him a text message immediately telling him they were fine.

At the moment, the school is closed indefinitely and the district is struggling to figure out how and where to teach the 270 Riverbend students.

According to the school district, Riverbend families will be updated on Monday and can also visit juneauschools.org for more information.

This story has been updated.

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