Mt. Pleasant School reopens after water leak

Small K-8 school district east of Washougal may seek state waiver to account for missed days

A water leak originating near the Mt. Pleasant School's water pump forced the K-8 school, located east of Washougal in Skamania County, to close for three days in early January 2023.

The Mt. Pleasant School east of Washougal re-opened to students and staff on Monday, Jan. 9, after closing for three days to fix a water leak that originated near a pump house just east of the school.

School leaders canceled classes Wednesday through Friday, Jan. 4-6, as contractors attempted to identify and fix the problem.

“This was not something that we anticipated,” Mt. Pleasant Superintendent-Principal Cathy Lehmann said. “We thought (it would only take) a day or two and we’d be back.”

She added that Mt. Pleasant administrators are glad the problem is now behind them.

Students and teachers first noticed the problem during their first day back to school after their holiday break, on Tuesday, Jan. 3.

“We had a late start because of ice. The kids came in, and throughout the day, the water pressure in the building was just getting lower and lower and lower,” Lehmann said. “The kids said, ‘The water fountain is not working,’ or, ‘The bathroom sink is trickling.'”

Lehmann contacted Innovative Leak Detection (ILD), a Washougal-based leak detection company, which sent technicians to inspect the school’s water lines the following day, on Wednesday, Jan. 4.

“They located two areas where they thought the leaks were,” Lehmann said.

But when the Vancouver-based Simpson Plumbing came to the school on Thursday, Jan. 5, and dug in those two areas, they could not locate the source of the leak, Lehmann said.

ILD technicians returned to the school on the morning of Friday, Jan. 6, and found a spot across the street from the school, near the pump house, in a neighbor’s driveway-yard area, Lehmann said, adding that the company believed the leak came from an underground irrigation box.

Simpson’s Plumbing employees returned to the school on Friday, Jan. 6, to, confirm the source of the leak and make the necessary repairs..

“A smaller pipe off the mainline broke,” Lehmann said. “It might have (broken because of the) ground shifting due to weather. They did not have a conclusive reason.”

The water pump is located on private property, according to Lehmann.

“The (residents) allow us to use their water source, but we own the water system,” she explained. “We’ve had an agreement for a long time that we’ll access the water from their spring on their property, but we own the repairs and the system.”

Mt. Pleasant School families were “really supportive” throughout the week, Lehmann said.

“I haven’t had anyone (express) anger at the situation,” she said. “They understand, I think, that we’re doing what we can as fast as we can. There haven’t been any angry calls. Our families have been really tolerant and appreciate that we’re working on it.”

The school, which serves 67 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, will most likely have to apply for an emergency waiver from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) as a result of the temporary closure.

Washington state law states that each school district must provide a minimum of 180 school days in each school year and at least 1,000 annual instructional hours to students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Ordinarily, school districts receive state funding based on the number of students who are enrolled in the district for an average of 1,027 instructional hours over 180 school days. OSPI, however, is authorized to waive the school day and average instructional hour requirements for districts in the event of unforeseen emergency events.

“Between the fire evacuation day, the snow days, and now the water days, we are over whatever (extra days off were) built into the calendar, so we’re in a situation now where we’ll have to do a state waiver,” Lehmann said. “We can always add more days on, but we don’t really want to go into July, so we’ll look at adding some days on and then asking the state to forgive (the remainder of the required hours).”

Lehmann said that she doesn’t know how much the repairs will cost, but is hoping that insurance can cover the expenses.

“We don’t really know yet what (the cost) looks like, but we are part of a risk cooperative that has insurance through the Educational Service District (ESD) 112,” Lehmann said. “I don’t know what that will all come out as, but the ESD, luckily, runs a co-op for small districts so that we can all buy into insurance at a rate that’s affordable. We’ve always kept a good fund balance, so there are some contingency funds in the (district’s) fund balance that could be accessed, but we’re hoping that the cooperative (can help pay for the majority of the water-leak repairs).”