Quick clean-up readies SCHS following water leak, ceiling panel collapse

GEORGETOWN – After Winter Storm Grayson’s bone-chilling blizzard blitz, Sussex Central High School was back in session Jan. 10 following four days off.

On Sunday, Jan. 7, the school’s custodial staff was called into action during the second round of the NFL’s Wildcard Weekend.

BEFORE: Collapsed ceiling panels lie in a second-floor hallway.

AFTER: Clean-up is complete in the second-floor hallway.

Custodians and several others teamed to clean up water spawned by two incidents – a fire pump malfunction and later a frozen pipe that burst – at the high school located on Patriots Way.

Shortly after 2 p.m., Jan. 7, the fire pump malfunction activated two sprinkler heads in the D-Wing mechanical penthouse, a third-floor unit that houses the HVAC system, said SCHS Principal Dr. Bradley Layfield.

Water quickly saturated and collapsed about a dozen ceiling tiles above a second-floor hallway.

BEFORE: Water spawned by a fire pump malfunction and sprinkler activation Jan. 7 floods a classroom floor at Sussex Central High School.

“Obviously, these ceiling panels that are all throughout the school with these floating ceilings, it doesn’t take much to saturate them and then they just fall to pieces,” said Dr.  Layfield. “The good news was of most of the flooding that occurred in any classrooms was just where the water from hallways spread out from there.”

Classroom ceilings did not collapse, although there was some spotty staining.

AFTER: Water has been removed and this classroom is ready for business.

The fire pump malfunction alerted custodial staff and the Millsboro Fire Company. Sprinkler system activation caused a change in water pressure that triggered the fire panel sensor.

“It did take a while to clean up but hats off to what I would consider the most fabulous custodial crew in our district or the state of Delaware. By about 7 o’clock or 7:30 p.m. that night all of the water was removed,” said Dr. Layfield.

Then, around 7 p.m., staff discovered that a domestic water pipe along an exterior wall that services science labs had frozen and burst.

“It wasn’t going very long but it did release a lot of water. But they got it shut off and within about another hour to an hour and a half they had all of the water removed,” said Dr. Layfield.

Pipe repair necessitated cutting a hole in the wall.

“I think the custodians got out of here about 9 or 9:30 p.m. Sunday night so they missed all the NFL action,” said Dr. Layfield. “I was certainly blessed to have them all here with all hands on deck to get everything cleaned up.”

Several teachers, the school’s athletic director and three administrators assisted in the clean-up, Dr. Layfield noted.

Finishing touches the morning of Monday, Jan. 8 had the school was ready  for business as usual. However, schools in the Indian River School District remained closed due to after-effects from the winter storm Jan. 8 and Jan. 9.

“If we had ourselves a two-hour delay on Monday (Jan. 8) we’d have been functioning as if nothing had ever happened,” said Dr. Layfield. “Those guys are miracle workers.”

There were rumors circulating on social media of a roof collapse, which was not the case.

“The roof did not cave in at Sussex Central High School,” said IRSD spokesman David Maull.

“We had about 12 ceiling tiles that got saturated and collapsed through, but it was definitely not a structural thing,” said Dr. Layfield.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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