Concord School District’s brand new McAuliffe Elementary School has had a rough few weeks with leaking skylights, damaged walls, and a sewer drainage pipe problem that required replacement which has some privately questioning whether or not all the accolades about the school’s quality of construction and safety promoted by officials are valid.
The most recent problem came on Oct. 30, about 20 minutes after the end of the Concord School Board forum where nearly all the candidates commended the quality and precision of the construction of the new schools, which cost taxpayers about $91 million. A short rainsquall which hit Concord with about a quarter of inch of rain poured water underneath the doors of the school and down the halls, a regular occurrence at the school every time it rains more than a mist, according to sources.
Matt Cashman, the director of facilities and planning for the district, confirmed that there were problems at the school – as well as smaller issues at Abbot-Downing Elementary School and Mill Brook Primary School – but the district had guarantees on the construction of the buildings and was taking steps to repair the problems.
In the case of the skylights, every time it rained at the McAuliffe, the skylights were leaking. Administrators put as many as 20 buckets around the school to catch the water dripping. Water stains on ceiling tiles were visible during two inspections this week of the building.
Cashman said Harvey Construction was on site the previous week with the subcontractor, Academy Roofing, that installed the roof and skylights making repairs and sealing the seams where the water was leaking.
“They looked and with a roof map were able to pinpoint where the locations were,” he said. “They applied additional adhesives and membrane down in the areas that they thought were suspect.”
On Nov. 1, buckets still remained in different parts of the school.
Since opening in late August, according to Cashman, other roof leaks were reported at the Abbot-Downing and Mill Brook schools, “but minimal, not much whatsoever.”
In two different cases, walls were damaged in both the gym and the wooden display case in the front entrance of the school.
In the case of the gym, a chunk of drywall reportedly fell from the area around a window causing the gym to be closed to students while repairs were made.
Cashman called the drywall chunk “small” – about two or three inches by three or four inches – and said he didn’t know why it came down but didn’t believe it was a water leak. He said there was a basketball seen lodged near the wall but couldn’t confirm exactly how the wall was damaged.
The wooden display case has a large water stain along the side from a leak that buckled the wood from the wall. The leak was from a part of a sprinkler system that needed tightening, Cashman said. The local craftsman who installed the wood display case was creating another piece of wood to repair the stained piece, he said.
Every time it rains heavily, water runs under all the doors of McAuliffe due to the accessibility of the sidewalks to the doors. The worst flooding occurs in the front of the school where water runs down from Rumford Street at a 16-foot grade to the front door of the school. There were also water pressure issues due to an underground spring – hence the name Spring Street – in the area of the yard on the southeast side of the property.
Cashman said the subcontractor for the doors would be in next week to see if the seams could be lowered to stop the water. If that doesn’t work to stop the water, Novis Engineering, the company that designed the front area of the school, will be asked to redesign it to change the flow of the water, he said.
Cashman said there were other minor problems at the other schools, including leaking roofs, window leaks, and other water problems mostly due to Hurricane Sandy and some technology glitches. All the district's schools had leaky roofs during the storm, he said.
“We had two roof leaks at Abbot-Downing and several window leaks at Mill Brook,” he said.
The case of the leaking sewage pipe was a little more complicated to fix and required a cutting of the floor in the nurse’s office and removal of a pipe. A blockage was found in the pipe using a line camera provided by the city of Concord. The camera line was able to find the blockage and loosen it. The cast iron pipe was then replaced with a PVC pipe to allow the raw sewage to flow more swiftly.
Cashman said since the toilets are all low flow, the sewage did not flow as properly as it should in the cast iron pipe. The replacement pipe should fix the problem, he said.
However, while some may be concerned about the problems at the brand new schools, Cashman said the district was protected by guarantees, ranging from one to 30 years, depending on the contractor and the work performed.
“I’ve been privy to any and all actions,” he said. “Any time one of the schools has an issue, it funnels right up to me and then I contact Harvey.”
The district also had a paper trail system of repairs in order to ensure that the work will be done properly and in a timely manner, Cashman said.