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Sewer-line break displaces four classes at Salem Avenue Eleme

December 01, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER and ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Plumbing issues displaced four classes at Salem Avenue Elementary School on Thursday morning as school officials attempted to pinpoint the problem.

School continued throughout the day, and was expected to be open on a regular schedule today, Washington County Public Schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen said.

The sewer line break affected the school's northern wing, which houses its pre-kindergarten to third-grade students, Acting Principal Thomas Garner said.

Teachers in those grades doubled up to accommodate the classes, he said, as they had before recent construction was completed on new classrooms.

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Some parents took their children home, he said, "but not a lot."

Students who did leave were given excused absences, he said.

Early speculation was that the recent construction might have damaged a sewer line outside the school, he said. Mowen said officials believe the problem was on school property.

Officials said the break happened Wednesday afternoon.

Mowen said officials were still trying to determine the source of the break.

Although the damaged line resulted in an early-morning stench in the school, Garner said school staff opened windows and diverted air flow to correct that problem. While some classroom restrooms were unusable, larger common restrooms weren't affected.

By afternoon, officials said the odor was no longer an issue. Students and staff were not in areas that had a strong odor, and school officials were given bottled water and hand sanitizer for students and staff to use.

"I can assure you that we are doing everything possible to protect the health and well-being of our students and staff and limit the effects of this incident," Garner said. "Luckily, our staff's experiences with our recent renovation enabled us to smoothly continue with our school day."

Mowen said school officials anticipated that school today would not be affected by the problem, but that parents and guardians should monitor area media and the school system's Web site - www.wcboe.k12.md.us - in case of a school delay or closure.

She said a letter was sent home to parents about the issue.

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