The school was closed Wednesday morning after a break in the sprinkler system.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — A deficient mechanism in the school's sprinkler system led to the cancellation of school at Hoosac Valley Regional Middle and High School about an hour into Wednesday's school day.
Had school and fire officials came up with their quick fix an hour or two earlier, the school day might have been saved.
The school's plumbing issue was fixed at approximately 10:30 a.m., about 90 minutes after students were sent home and some 3 1/2 hours after the issue was reported to the local fire departments.
The frigid temperatures overnight caused a leak in a particular section of the sprinkler system, forcing it to be shut off entirely until it was fixed.
The Cheshire Volunteer Fire Department officer on scene, in communication with Chief Thomas Francesconi, determined that the building was unsafe because the alarm and sprinkler system were not working, ultimately making the call to send students home for the remainder of the day.
"Because the sprinkler system was faulty and there was no alarms, the fire chief said that all students and faculty had to leave the building," Business Administrator David Hinkell said.
Adams Fire Chief Paul Goyette said his unit received a call regarding the fire alarm systems just after 7 a.m. Based on a mutual agreement, the Adams Fire Department is responsible for responding to calls regarding Hoosac Valley, which are received immediately following those placed to Cheshire.
The custodian arrived at about 5:30 a.m. and saw water pouring onto the parking lot outside the pump room, creating a slick of ice.
Adams Plumbing and Heating, which is contracted by the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District to handle complex plumbing issues such as Wednesday's, installed a mechanism that will prevent this type of issue from recurring, according company representative Jeff Denault.
Adams firefighters located the plumbing part needed, saving the plumbing company from driving outside town to acquire one.
"Why that wasn't on there, I don't know," Hinkell said. "I did ask that question. Maybe it was just something that was omitted in the design or something."
When the school was renovated in 2012, North Adams-based Dobbert Companies installed the new sprinkler system, which needed to comply with contemporary building codes with the inclusion of a reduce-pressure backflow preventer. This mechanism is supposed to prevent leakage in a particular area of the system by draining excess water and sledge to the outside of the building; however, airflow at subzero temperatures infiltrated the relief valve, causing a seizure in the mechanism and leaking throughout the pump room.
Though the leakage was contained to the pump room, the impact on the fire alarm system was the true reason for the school's cancellation.
"Because there was no water and we couldn't reset the system — and you had to turn off the alarms, too, otherwise the system would have been in alarm because it hadn't had any water, so the alarms would've been going off," Hinkell said.
School will take place as regularly scheduled on Thursday.
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