WESTBOROUGH – Rain and snow in January recently led to water seeping under the gymnasium floor at Westborough’s new Fales Elementary School, according to School Committee member and School Building Committee chair Stephen Doret.
The issue prompted a challenge for crews working at Fales.
“It’s been an interesting effort in terms of construction management,” Doret said during a School Committee meeting on Feb. 16.
“Mother Nature has a tendency to test us,” Doret added.
He praised the district’s custodial staff, whom he said headed off “what might have been a very expensive disaster.”
Water damage seen following rainstorm
Students had their first official day of classes in the new Fales school on Nov. 15 after a lengthy construction project.
Demolition work continued at the nearby old Fales school following its closure.
The north side of the new building’s gymnasium, meanwhile, is against a slope on the back side of the property.
“The grading in the back of the slope is fairly steep, and as a result of frozen ground, of course the runoff that we get from heavy rain is quite substantial,” Doret said.
In late January, there was a heavy rain that was followed by snow.
That “provided our first opportunity to find out how that grading in the back of the school would work,” according to Doret.
“And I have to say, it didn’t,” he continued.
Runoff led to water pooling on a handicap accessible slab outside a building entrance. Water then went under the back doors.
“Initially, it didn’t seem to be a problem,” Doret said.
The next day, though, the district’s team held a construction meeting and found that the water had seeped under the floor.
The seepage spanned approximately half of the gym floor area. It then expanded following additional winter weather.
“The issue was immediately [that] we understood that the floor was at risk,” Doret said.
District plans response
Crews mobilized to deal with the issue. They hired M.A. Restoration, which is a remodeling and water and mold damage company based out of Westborough, and worked to dry out the floor and water below.
Doret said that crews were then due to refinish the floor near the door and replace the baseboards around the gym.
“We were very successful,” he said.
A claim has been filed with the district’s insurance company related to this incident. Doret estimated that about $14,000 was spent out of pocket for the restoration, and there will be an additional $4,000 to refinish the floor and replace the baseboards.
In the meantime, custodial staff had used sandbags as of Feb. 16 to temporarily block the path that let water into the building.
The district also asked its architect to use design solutions to address the issue. Those solutions include regrading the drainage path and creating a trench drain near the door.
“I just want to be reassuring to everybody that it’s under steady control and it will be resolved and that the quality of flooring that we were guaranteed will be in place, and it will move forward,” said Superintendent Amber Bock.
Students, staff settle into Westborough’s new Fales School
Westborough says goodbye to original Fales Elementary School