Chamisa third graders to return Wednesday; K-2 to return Thursday

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By Tris DeRoma



A combination of warm temperatures, tree leaves and ice is to blame for Monday’s flooding problems at Chamisa Elementary, according to school officials.

The flooding mainly affected the K-3 classrooms in the school’s “primary pod,” severely damaging ceilings and carpeting in the school. Two classrooms in another part of the school were also damaged.

School was canceled Monday and Tuesday. But Chamisa Elementary School principal Debbie Smith announced this afternoon that “we will begin bringing back students tomorrow on a staggered basis (third grade Wednesday and the Kinder through second on Thursday). We are relocating those classes within the school on a temporary basis.”

• Third graders will resume classes Wednesday.  Smith and the teachers will meet third grade students and any interested parents in the gym tomorrow at 8:20 when school starts.  “We will be temporarily relocating the students to different spaces in the school,” Smith said.

• Kindergarten through 2nd grade students will resume classes on Thursday. Smith and the teachers will meet students (and interested parents) in the gym Thursday morning at 8:20 to direct them to temporary classroom locations in the school.

• Removal and reconstruction in classrooms begins today. The scope and length of the project is yet to be determined, but will include removal of damaged walls and ceilings, repair of storm water flow systems, and replacement of carpet, as needed.

• Regular updates to families will be emailed and posted on the Chamisa Website. Smith also said it could be a week or more before the damage is repaired.

“Our priority is to do it as safely and as quickly as possible,” Smith said.

Apparently, as temperatures rapidly dropped overnight Sunday, all of these factors came together at once, effectively blocking, and then backing up, water into the school roof’s drainage system, which caused water to leak in through the ceiling.

“If you think back over the last week, we did have snow, it melted in a hurry, it was just a combination of factors that caused this,” LAPS Superintendent Gene Schmidt said during his tour of the school with Smith Monday morning.

Schmidt also added that he’s going to see about having the trees trimmed back a little more than they have been to prevent the falling leaves from overwhelming the drainage system, and officials may take a look at the entire drainage system to see if there is any way to improve it.

“Since this happened once before five years ago, it makes me think that there may be some engineering issue,” Schmidt said.

Smith and Schmidt are also going to look into shortening the time between drain cleanings.

“I wonder if we didn’t have the ice buildup that didn’t allow the water from the warm weather to drain right away as well as the recent rain, if things would have been different,” Smith said.

As soon as school officials realized what happened, they were able to keep most students from coming to school through email alerts and the school’s neighborhood loudspeaker.

Smith said they are currently working out how they are going to be getting the kids back to school, perhaps by Wednesday, with as little disruption to their learning time as possible. It may involve shutting off each damaged classroom and moving the students into one that hasn’t been flooded to complete the cleanup, which may include new bubble ceilings, mold prevention and installing new carpets.

“We are having some experts come in to make sure we are ahead of the possibility of mold,” Schmidt said Monday. “The first thing that will be done is drying out the carpets and the walls.”

Check LAMonitor.com for further developments on when classes will resume at Chamisa.