Upwards of 800 students returned to Ferrucci Junior High School on Thursday after students were barred from entering the building for four days. That time also included a day of instruction at Emerald Ridge High School on Sept. 11.
Students, teachers and administrators were not allowed access after 15 classrooms were flooded on Sept. 6 due to excessive rain and thunderstorms that hit the area.
“When the thunderstorms started, the water started collecting,” said Brian Fox, Puyallup School District spokesperson. “The backup of the storm drains caused the backup of the down spouts. It was never expected that there would be such a backup of this magnitude.”
Fox said the cause came from an HVAC design flaw that dates back to the original construction of the school in 1982.
“It wasn’t built with those kind of rain storms in mind,” he said.
At 6 a.m. Sept. 6, custodial staff discovered the flooding in the impacted classrooms.
At noon on Sept. 11, tested air samples came back clean. At that time, the school district notified the public that students would be able to return to the Ferrucci campus the following day.
Ten days of work began Thursday during “after-school hours and on weekends to replace sheetrock, paint and reinstall cabinets in the damaged areas,” said Rudy Fyles, the school district’s chief operations officer.
“The building is dry, and the air is safe for students and staff to return,” Fyles said on Sept. 11.
Part of the process to clean up the school with the aid of specialists included removing the wall board between classrooms to encourage better air flow. In addition, the building was replaced with clean air using industrial-quality fans and ventilation systems, according to a school district news release.
A process of removing old air and forcing clean air inside was repeated 100 times each day during the time students and staff members were away from the building. This process was done until air particles throughout the building were tested clean, Fyles said.
Fox said the HVAC design flaw was immediately fixed.
“The drip pan underneath the HVAC system now has an escape route to avoid the downspout from backing up,” Fox said.
Puyallup School District Superintendent Tim Yeomans was satisfied with the quick work done by those who helped to clean up and repair the campus. He also thanked the Emerald Ridge High School staff for accommodating the Ferrucci students.
“I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to Ferrucci Junior High students, staff, parents and the community for their patience and cooperation as we worked to get the school building ready for safe occupancy,” Yeomans said. “We are pleased to have the junior high students return once again to a clean and safe learning environment.”
Fyles said plans to evaluate the effectiveness of HVAC systems district-wide will take place during the next several months to potentially mitigate future problems.
Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.