Camas schools damaged during winter storms

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Skyridge Middle School staff survey classrooms for water damage Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. A winter storm that hit the Camas-Washougal area over the three-day Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, Jan. 13-15, 2024, caused two pipes to freeze and burst inside the Camas middle school, impacting 22 classrooms and the library. Camas School District leaders said this week that the storm-related damage will cost at least $250,000 to repair.

Camas schools suffered at least $250,000 worth of damage during last week’s winter storms that blanketed the region in snow and ice over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, Jan. 13-15, and again on Tuesday, Jan. 16.

Camas School District (CSD) Superintendent John Anzalone said “the biggest loss” was at Skyridge Middle School, where frozen pipes burst Sunday morning, Jan. 14, leaking “3,200 gallons of water (that) seeped under doorways of a lot of the classrooms.”

CSD Operations Supervisor Randy Barnes said 22 Skyridge classrooms and the school library were impacted by the leaks, which stemmed from an upstairs fire-sprinkler system and an HVAC system in what Barnes described as the “far corner” of the school library.

Barnes said the local fire department and maintenance crews responded to the larger, upstairs leak within 30 minutes and that that maintenance staff responded to the library leak “very quickly, within minutes.”

The water leak in the library damaged ceiling tiles and carpeting, but spared the majority of the books, Anzalone said.

CSD administrators believe the pipes were not adequately insulated when the 28-year-old, 112,133-square-foot middle school was constructed.

“There wasn’t much we could have done,” Anzalone said. “The insulation was a bit light around some of those pipes.”

The superintendent dispelled rumors that the school district had turned off the heat at Skyridge Middle, located at 5220 N.W. Parker St., Camas.

“The heat was never turned off … We would not have turned the heat off because we were expecting kids to be back on Tuesday (following the three-day Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend),” Anzalone said.

Frozen pipes also led to a water leak inside Prune Hill Elementary’s gymnasium and cafeteria.

“A neighbor reported that and then (maintenance staff) got over there almost immediately,” Anzalone said of the Prune Hill leak.

Anzalone said there are “a couple teachers at Skyridge who will be displaced” from their classrooms, but that district administrators hope to reopen those classrooms as soon as possible.

Barnes said the two unusable classrooms are “lab-style” rooms with damaged countertops that will need to be removed and replaced.

The operations supervisor added that the extreme temperatures that accompanied last week’s storms likely contributed to the unusual number of burst pipes and water leaks inside Camas schools.

“The temperatures (were) very rare for our area,” Barnes said. “I don’t think we have had (temperatures) that cold for that long in my lifetime.”

Anzalone estimated that the storms caused at least $250,000 in damages, but said that figure could increase. He added that the school district is insured for the storm-related damage.

“I don’t know if any school was totally unscathed,” Anzalone said. “That was a lot of water and ice.”

The superintendent gave “kudos” to CSD’s maintenance workers and building administrators for their handling of the storm damage inside Camas schools.

“People put in a lot of hours, off the clock,” Anzalone said. “We also reached out to (Paul Davis Restoration) and they had a team out there almost immediately and extracted water from the carpets at Skyridge. Our principals have been wonderful. They were very, very conscientious of what was going on.”