Heating Leak Causes Thursday Closure at Williamstown Elementary
Crews work on an ethylene glycol spill in Williamstown Elementary School that will force the school to close to students on Thursday, Oct. 8.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williamstown Elementary School will be closed on Thursday to address a malfunction in the school's heating system.
School officials discovered an ethylene glycol spill in the school's gymnasium on Wednesday morning. A plumbing and heating company was called in and discovered a cracked pipe in the system, Superintendent Douglas Dias said on Wednesday afternoon.
Dias emphasized that the ethylene glycol, a common component of antifreeze, was a liquid, not a gas, and that students and staff were not exposed to the chemical on Wednesday. The sunny day allowed for all gym classes to be conducted outside.
After consulting with town officials and the contractor, Dias and Principal Joelle Brookner decided to close the school on Thursday.
"Unfortunately, I have dealt with building leaks in schools before," Dias said. "When crews come in dragging hoses and things through the hallway, it's not a good environment for learning.
"You have issues with tripping hazards and noise potentially. The idea is, let's do it right and do it quickly."
WES already had a scheduled day off for pupils on Friday for a teacher's professional development day. The already four-day weekend (including Columbus Day on Monday) will now be a five-day weekend for the kids.
And they better enjoy it, because they will pay for it in June. Dias confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that Thursday will count as a snow day for the purposes of the school calendar.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the district planned to continue to go ahead with the professional development program at the school as planned, Dias said.
"We will know more tomorrow," he said. "If we have to locate to another site, we will let staff know immediately.
"We anticipate cleaning crews being at the school until late this evening and back early Thursday morning. We anticipate the building being accessible to staff [on Friday]."
With as many as four working days available to address the problem (Thursday through Saturday plus Monday), the pupils' five-day fall "vacation" likely will come to an end on Tuesday.
"We anticipate that we will re-open our doors after the long weekend on Tuesday, October 13, and resume normal operations," Brookner wrote in an email to parents.
Dias said it would be a time-intensive process to make sure the school is ready for classes on Tuesday.
"I've had leaks in schools and in my house," he said. "Once water gets in the walls, you don't know what's there until you open the dry wall up. You have to open some walls to make sure everything is OK."