HOULTON, Maine — Sometime over the Christmas vacation, Greater Houlton Christian Academy was flooded by a broken water pipe.
“The pipe burst on the second floor due to a window being left open,” said Head Master John Bishop. “We believe it was likely an unintentional mistake that caused the problem.”
Thousands of gallons of water spilled out, soaking down to the gymnasium floor, causing damage in seven rooms, including two classrooms, aerospace classroom and office, band room and the head master’s office.
Assistant Head of School Tom Zimmerman discovered the damage on Friday, Dec. 28, when he went to the office. Once the mess was discovered, word was sent to the school families and friends and through the next week, dozens of parents, students, alumni and friends mopped up the water, removed waterlogged ceiling tiles, ripped up carpet, removed equipment and furnishings.
“Local fire departments and farmers loaned industrial fans to help dry the building out,” said Bishop. “On New Year’s Day, school families came and cleaned the building so school could start as scheduled. We were overwhelmed by the turnout. Our extended school family and greater community have really come through for the school.”
GHCA parent Jim Brown is serving as the general contractor to coordinate the renovation.
“We will be working hard to get this all done as quickly and painlessly as possible, but it will require some patience and flexibility on our part in the weeks ahead,” Bishop said earlier this week.
After the flooding, the immediate impact to the school was to move the sixth-grade class to another floor. The Title 1 resource room and head master’s office have been temporarily relocated, as well.
“We won’t be able to have indoor physical education classes, and secondary students will be eating lunch in classrooms until the gym is repaired,” said Bishop. “Another disappointment is that we just purchased our first SMART Board which was getting heavy use by teachers — and it was ruined by the water. I believe it will likely be covered by insurance, but it will be awhile before we can install another due to repairs to the room we use it in.”
For any school to repair damage to its building is costly, but Bishop said the flooding was especially hard on the small, private school of just 111 students from pre-K to 12th grade.
“This kind of unexpected challenge has a big impact,” Bishop said. “Coupled with the fact that we were forced to replace our old boiler this fall (not budgeted), it hits hard. However, it’s been heartening to see how our families, staff, and community have responded to the challenges, and our students are learning firsthand how the Lord continues to provide for our needs on a daily basis when we trust him.”
According to Bishop, the school leadership team “will be trying to extract as many lessons from this challenge as possible, including what can we do to try to reduce the risks of this from happening in the future.”
GHCA does have insurance and was given approval to begin making the necessary repairs to the building. However, the school’s deductible is $2,000.
“The insurance adjustor visited and gave us the approval to proceed to restore the damaged areas back to their previous condition, but not to improve them,” said Bishop. “We know there is a list of areas in which our school needs updating and beautification, and, there may be items on this list that make sense to be addressed during this reconstruction phase. But, the insurance company is not responsible for these costs. Therefore, any repairs outside the specific scope of damage will be our financial responsibility. We may be calling on volunteers to perform, and pay for, any repairs or upgrades which make sense to be made in the reconstruction phase.”
“Thanks again for all the volunteer hours and for the prayers for our school,” said Bishop. “This incident was no surprise to the Lord, and I’m sure He is busy at work in all of this. Ultimately, good will come from it.”
Anyone wishing to help with renovations or financially may do so by calling the office at 532-0736.
“We will be calling on volunteers to help with repairs and with upgrades, which make sense to be made in the reconstruction phase,” Bishop added.