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Water damage displaces North Elementary classrooms

Union Leader Correspondent

March 31. 2014 3:44PM
The main hallway at Londonderry North Elementary School was off limits Monday afternoon after a damaged roof membrane led to seven water-logged classrooms. (APRIL GUILMET)

LONDONDERRY - A damaged roof membrane at Londonderry North Elementary displaced seven classrooms Monday morning, and district officials coped with extensive and unexpected water damage.

Principal Mary Coltin said she was called to the school shortly after dawn Monday morning, when custodians alerted her to the damage.

By the time Coltin got to school, water had filled one of the main hallways and spread into five first-grade classrooms and two second-grade classrooms.

"I could have taken my kayak down that hall," Coltin said.
School custodian Kevin St. Laurent said the water appears to have seeped in after a 75-foot roof membrane split over the weekend.

"I opened the door this morning and all I could hear was water flowing," he said.

The damaged roof membrane on the school, built in the late 1960s, was easily repaired, but it's going to take at least several days to dry out the seven soggy classrooms.

A section of Route 28 near Mammoth Road, just around the corner from the elementary school, was closed on account of flooding Monday afternoon, with police re-routing traffic around the nearby Mobile gas station.

North School's front foyer was eerily quiet Monday afternoon, with the steady sounds of dripping water replacing children's laughter.
About a dozen or so plastic buckets and bins were set up along corridor to catch water drips, with fans spread about in attempts to dry out the classroom carpets.

Ceiling panels in the classrooms and hallways were taken down to allow the water to drip.

"It's an unusual situation," St. Laurent. "This isn't something that we'd expected to happen. The membrane just let go."

Teacher Kristy Cardin's second-grade classroom suffered the worst damage when water soaked her computer, desk, personal belongings and students' assignments.

Coltin said it's unclear at this time what can be salvaged and what will need to be replaced.

In the meantime, some of the first-grade classes will receive their lessons in the music room, while other first-grade classes will use a section of the library.

Second-graders were moved, temporarily, into a special education room and the art room.

The school's Images of Greatness event, in which students host an open house while dressed as historical characters, had been scheduled for Monday night but was postponed until next week on account of the water damage.

Staff and students pulled together to cope with Monday's surprise change of plans, according to Coltin.

"We had custodians from all over the district come here to help today," she said. "It's not the end of the world, and things can be replaced. Fortunately no one was hurt."

School officials are hoping the children can return to their regular classrooms toward the end of the week.

Once the water stops dripping and the carpets are fully dried, custodians will shampoo them with an anti-microbial soap to make sure mildew doesn't set in.

While a recently approved school repair bond is addressing failing roofs in several of the district's schools, North School officials noted that their roof hadn't previously experienced any major problems.

"Every now and then we'll get a little leak in the ceiling," Coltin said. "But this was certainly unexpected."

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