The bills from a prank gone wrong at Diamond Middle School have flooded the superintendent’s office, and the prankster - or pranksters’ - parents may be made to pay the $100,000 bill.
The bills from a prank gone wrong at Diamond Middle School have flooded the superintendent’s office, and the prankster or pranksters’ parents may be made to pay the $100,000 bill.
On May 31, police and fire responded to the school after its fire alarm was tripped by the sprinkler system. When they arrived, they found massive flooding in a wing of the school caused by a single ceiling sprinkler that had been tampered with in a second-floor boys’ bathroom. It appeared that the sprinkler head had been removed by a pair of pliers, causing an intense stream of water to pour out.
“It flooded the whole floor,” said Superintendent Paul Ash. “So much water came out that it not only flooded the floor, but it came down the walls on the first floor. There was quite a bit of water damage.”
Lt. Joseph O’Leary of the Lexington Police said there were drains on the bathroom floor, but they could not hand the volume of water from the sprinkler. Police have an idea who is responsible, but have not yet pressed charges.
“We hope to be able to identify the person or persons who are responsible in a very short time,” said O’Leary.
The school district is only responsible for a $25,000 deductible for the damages; its insurance company will pay the rest but the company will look to recoup its costs through lawsuits against the parents in civil court.
“The insurance company will be pursuing the party at fault for payment,” said Mary Ellen Dunn, the assistant superintendent of finance.
According to Dunn, there were up to eight inches of water on the first floor. It ruined books, posters, and other teaching materials, and damaged drywall and insulation in the walls. A cleaning crew, ServiceMaster, spent six days getting the school back into order. Their professional services account for half of the $100,000 estimate.
Teachers and custodians also spent the weekend cleaning and taking inventory of what was damaged. According to Dunn, custodians alone spent 20 hours of overtime making things right. Teachers were tabbed to inventory what was soaked so that a complete list could be supplied to the insurance company.
The disaster came just as the schools were wrapping up fiscal 2007 and getting their financial house in order.
“This is exactly what we did not need,” said School Committee member Tom Griffiths.
Dunn had to request a reserve fund transfer from the appropriation committee to cover the deductible, but has included that $25,000 in the fiscal 2007 numbers.
“That’s exactly the purpose why you have a reserve fund,” said Paul Ash. “In the meantime, all the people who did the work have to get paid.”
The school was evacuated for over an hour the day the incident occurred, and classes had to be moved out the damaged classrooms. Classes continued as normally as possible once the school was re-opened, and all classes were in session the following day.