Springdale among school districts hit hard by December deep freeze

Thaw after arctic blast near Christmas led to water damage

A sign warning residents of freezing temperatures is coated with a layer of ice Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, at the Del Mar Apartments in Bentonville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/FILE PHOTO)
A sign warning residents of freezing temperatures is coated with a layer of ice Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, at the Del Mar Apartments in Bentonville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/FILE PHOTO)

Last month's cold snap took a toll on some Northwest Arkansas school districts' facilities, especially in Springdale.

The Springdale School District put about 1,100 man hours into repairs after frozen pipes began thawing the weekend of Christmas, according to Jeremy White, district director of support services.

"About noon Christmas Eve they started thawing and busting," White told the School Board at its meeting Monday. "And the thing on these is, there's nothing that alerts you. So we had guys walking the buildings. They had to walk every building, every classroom, because the pipes that feed the restrooms, the kitchens, the art rooms, they run all over the building, so you had to actually look in every room. So as we did that, we would start finding these leaks and having to repair them."

Eleven Springdale school buildings sustained damage to some degree, White said. The district has 30 schools.

The damaged pipes, sheet rock and ceilings have all been repaired; the only thing left to do is paint. That will be done when kids aren't in the buildings, White said.

An arctic blast brought extreme cold nationwide just before Christmas. Temperatures across Northwest Arkansas dropped below zero at times.

Springdale's George Elementary School, which was hit by a tornado in March, saw "significant" flooding last month because of busted pipes, said Principal Justin Swope. Several classrooms were damaged, and the water made its way down the hallway to the library, he said.

"Our custodial staff was here on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day cleaning up," Swope said.

White said failing heating units were to blame for most of the district's trouble. The district has about 5,500 heat and air units, some of which failed "at the worst time possible," he said.

"Some of our buildings are just old. They're not built to today's standard," he added.

White said he'd been working on the insurance claim and insurance adjusters were planning to visit this week.

Springdale wasn't the only school district that had problems with pipes bursting.

The Rogers School District's Special Services Building at 2100 W. Perry Road was the hardest hit of the district's buildings, said Ashley Siwiec, director of communications. Two sprinkler heads in the women's restroom in the lobby area burst, causing extensive flooding in the building.

"We had to replace the ceiling grid and ceiling tiles in the restroom and lobby area and replace a lot of sheetrock on the walls," Siwiec said. "We also had some wicking at the base of the walls in several areas and that had to be cut out and replaced as well. The carpet was dried, but we will be replacing it in several flooded areas in March during spring break."

Two pipes burst at Rogers Heritage High School, though the only repairs needed were to the pipes themselves. A pipe also burst in the break room at the School Services building, causing some damage to the wall, Siwiec said.

In the Bentonville School District, there was confined sprinkler damage at Vaughn Elementary, Cooper Elementary, Old High Middle and Bentonville West High schools and damage to a restroom at Bentonville High School baseball/softball complex, said Leslee Wright, communications director.

There also were frozen pipes at Bright Field Middle and Sugar Creek Elementary schools. Damage amounted to less than $45,000 and all systems are operational, Wright said.

The Fayetteville School District had no damage, according to Alan Wilbourn, district public information officer.

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