Sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning, a pipe burst in Hopkinsville High School. As Hopkinsville residents slept, water flooded HHS from the cafeteria throughout the lower lever of the school.
“We’re waiting to see exactly how much can be dried out and what kind of damage it caused,” said Brad Hawkins, Christian County Public Schools chief operations officer, during a walkthrough of the school Monday with the New Era.
When students enter the front doors of HHS, they are presented with a set of stairs to the lower level of school. Down those stairs are the main offices for the administrative staff, principals, the family resource center, a few classrooms and the cafeteria.
A water pipe burst underground in the cafeteria and left the lower level of the school flooded. When Hawkins answered the call Saturday to assess the situation, he said nearly 2 inches of water was standing throughout.
Hawkins said he thinks the large tiles in the main entrance will be fine, but the school will have to wait to see if the sections of vinyl composite tiles are damaged. The carpets in each administrators' offices will likely need to be replaced, and the smell of mold is already taking effect.
The pipe that burst was a hot water line around 3 feet in the ground, he noted.
CCPS maintenance staff said it was an original copper line that has water running through it all day, every day, and — considering that HHS is 57 years old — that line has had water running through it constantly for that long.
The maintenance staff said it was only a matter of time until something like this happened. As they dug deeper into the underground pipe system Monday, they said they wouldn't be surprised to find more pipes that were close to bursting.
As the water flooded the cafeteria, it also pushed through the floors in the electrical room, Hawkins said. Images flooded social media over the weekend of brown water from the dirt around the pipe.
The Christian County Board of Education is deep in a fight to approve the nickel tax to build a new school. The board voted to implement the tax; however, a petition from local residents opposing the tax received enough signatures to add it to the November General Election ballot for the community to decide.
In the meantime, Hawkins said the board keeps funding repairs to the leaking roof at the school, and the flooding is another issue that must be addressed.
“This building is worn out,” he said. “We know the plumbing needs to be replaced, the electrical needs to be replaced, the HVAC system is on its last leg. Things only last for so long.
“We can stand and argue about what should have been done 30 years ago all we want," he continued. "That doesn't change the fact that this is where we are today, and we need to address that.”
The cost of fully remodeling HHS is around $36 to $38 million. The cost to build a completely new academic building is around $42 million.
According to the Kentucky Department of Education, if the cost of renovation is 80% or more of the cost of building a new school, the district must build a new school. Hawkins said the school system has no choice but to rebuild, or keep patching up HHS.
CCPS has to wait for HHS to dry out before it can assess the total cost to fix the water damage, Hawkins noted. In the meantime, dryers and dehumidifiers from All Kleen Services are hard at work drying out the school.
Reach Jon Russelburg at 270-887-3241 or firstname.lastname@example.org.