Sussex Central ceiling collapses in water leak

Date Published: 
Jan. 12, 2018

Special to the Coastal Point • Submitted: Sussex Central High School took a bit of a hit from the recent wintery conditions when a sprinkler and pipe burst, causing a partial ceiling collapse and flooding.Special to the Coastal Point • Submitted: Sussex Central High School took a bit of a hit from the recent wintery conditions when a sprinkler and pipe burst, causing a partial ceiling collapse and flooding.Last weekend, after nearly a foot of snow and below-freezing temperatures outside, Sussex Central High School staff were displeased to find water inside the school, too. After a sprinkler and a pipe burst, the school suffered partial ceiling collapse and flooding. The roof itself did not collapse, officials emphasized.

The Millsboro Volunteer Fire Department received an automated alarm about the incident around 2 p.m. on Sunday, due to the change in water pressure.

First, “there was a problem with our fire pump and our pump house out by the stadium,” said Principal Bradley Layfield.

That malfunction somehow triggered two sprinklers in the HVAC room, located above the two-story D wing — a central spoke in the high school’s layout. Upstairs, the insulation and ceiling tiles were saturated with water and fell through.

“We had extensive flooding upstairs and downstairs,” Layfield said.

But most of the direct damage was in hallways, not the math classrooms upstairs, or the computer labs and ELL classrooms downstairs.

“Everything is operational, should we have a fire,” Layfield said of the fire-suppression system — which sent out the automatic notification to the Millsboro fire company even during the event. “I think it’s just some sensors that may need looking at or replacing.”

Later that day, staff were actually near the C wing when a pipe burst — one that typically feeds water to science labs. The wall was cut open and the pipe welded back together.

On Sunday, the custodians, administrators and some teachers were on scene for major cleanup. After that, fans and dehumidifiers finished the job. Ceiling tiles are regularly replaced anyway, so SCHS already had six new bundles on hand. Insulation will be replaced Friday, Jan. 12, when school is closed to students for a teacher workday, Layfield said.

“So everything’s back to normal here at Sussex Central,” he reiterated, commending staff for their hard work, and teachers for keeping tidy classrooms, which he said prevented worse damage.

The school could even have re-opened Monday morning, Layfield noted, to the 1,600-plus students enrolled at SCHS, which is located north of Millsboro. But the Indian River School District closed school from Thursday, Jan. 4, through Tuesday, Jan. 9, due to the snow and treacherous roads. Students were back in the classrooms at SCHS on Wednesday, Jan. 10.