Students at Sunrise Elementary School got an unexpected holiday Thursday after an apparent roof leak spilled into one classroom and part of a hallway.
Stormwater also pushed its way up through sinks and toilets in one section of the school’s kindergarten-first grade wing, but it wasn’t clear if the cause was a clogged or overwhelmed drainage system, or otherwise connected to the roof leak.
Staff members evacuated the building shortly after class began, walking kindergartners and first-graders across 19th Avenue to Albany Options School, and older students a few blocks to 24th Avenue and Calapooia Middle School until parents could pick them up.
District officials said classes were expected to be running as usual at Sunrise today. Crews spent Thursday morning mopping up and sanitizing the building’s main wing.
Jim Haggart, executive assistant to the superintendent, said it wasn’t clear yet where the leak began or how the backup occurred. No standing water was visible by late morning. A contractor is investigating.
Renee Riley, Sunrise office manager, said arriving staff members first noticed water dripping from a section of the hallway ceiling in the kindergarten-first grade classroom wing, which was built in 1949 and is the oldest section of the school. This was around 7:30 a.m., she said.
Next, a kindergarten teacher pulled open a storage closet to find water running down the rear of the wall and seeping into the carpet. Then the sink next door began to overflow.
“We had toilets overflowing, we had sinks spewing, we had water coming from up and down,” Riley said. “It was tons of fun.”
Students arrive at Sunrise for breakfast starting at 8:35 and are usually in classrooms by 8:50. Most were already in class by the time the extent of the problem was discovered.
At first, Riley said, teachers figured they could move the K-1 wing to other parts of the school for the day. But even though the overflow was just stormwater, she said, the backup from the restrooms was causing some unpleasant odors. That prompted administrators to decide to get everyone out.
Teachers, staff and Parent Teacher Club President Jenny Morgan all worked together to contact parents and make sure children were routed safely to other buildings, Riley said.
Sunrise has 420 students, but splits its kindergarten into morning and afternoon sessions. Probably about 395 students actually were evacuated, Riley said.
At the alternate sites, teachers did abridged versions of classroom lessons and held recess in gyms and other open areas. At AOS, first-grade teacher Jeniffer Gilder led a group of students in a game of “Duck, Duck Goose.”
“Teachers will attempt to do curriculum as best they can, but going to another classroom is kind of difficult,” Haggart said.
By 1 p.m., all but about 50 of the older students had been picked up from Calapooia, and only a handful remained at Albany Options. Buses were scheduled to pick up any remaining children at the alternate sites at their regular dismissal time.
Haggart said any lost time will not count against students and will not be made up.