Gas back on at middle school

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By Tris DeRoma

Usually, if someone walks into a crowded room and says loudly “we’ve got gas,” the crowd is going to quickly get away from that person.

But since it was open house night at the Los Alamos Middle School and the person doing the shouting was Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gene Schmidt, the crowd cheered.

Ever since a main gas line broke at the middle school a couple of weeks ago, people were wondering if the school was going to have heated classrooms and hot food for students when winter came.

According to Schmidt, the leak was isolated Tuesday and repairs began immediately. The leak was somewhere in a thousand-foot stretch of the gas line that runs alongside the temporary classrooms.

“We found the actual leak along that section of pipe,” Schmidt said. “By this Tuesday, the students will be having hot lunch.” The middle school cafeteria also provides hot lunches to all the elementary schools, as well.

The middle school’s troubles started about two weeks ago when a subcontractor working for McCarthy Construction, the contractor in charge of renovating the school, struck a gas line with a backhoe. After doing a number of pressure tests using air to find the leak, the company found leaks in other areas of the network.

As estimates and delays started to mount, the Board of Education held a special meeting to remedy the situation. They opted to have McCarthy tear up the old lines, estimated to be about 40 years old or older, and install all new gas lines, which McCarthy has started doing.

“I was confused as to why they didn’t replace this entire aging infrastructure when they first started construction,” School Board Member Melanie McKinley said at the time. “To me, it seemed an easy decision to make. When you’re in there doing all this work, you replace all of it.”