CHESHIRE -- Hoosac Valley Middle & High School will re-open at its regular time on Thursday after an external water system malfunction led to an early dismissal for students on Wednesday morning.
Vice Principal Jeremiah Ames said the water feed to the school's sprinkler system was cut off when a water release valve froze as a result of Wednesday's sub-zero temperatures. The faulty valve, housed in an exterior pump house, caused a large release of water but no damage to the school building.
Ames said the incident occurred around 7 a.m., just as students and staff were beginning to arrive at the school. When officials couldn't recharge the sprinkler system, they knew they had a problem on their hands.
"It was a hectic morning," said Ames.
School administrators quickly organized a meeting to consult with members of the Adams and Cheshire fire departments and the Adams Water Department, along with Adams Plumbing and Heating.
Ames said the necessary repair wasn't going to be a quick fix; it would take an estimated three to four hours.
"We had two concerns. The primary concern was if there had been a fire in the building, we'd have no sprinkler system to fight it," Ames said. "Also, given that there was no functioning sprinkler system in the building, if there was a fire alarm, we'd have to evacuate the building. As you know it was extremely cold outside at that time, and we couldn't risk having students in the building with the water system being down.
So school officials made the decision to send students home early, at 9 a.m. They then scrambled to reach out to parents and guardians to make bus and pick up arrangements for each pupil. Hoosac Valley also canceled all after-school activities, including both home and away games for sports teams.
"Everybody was great," said Ames. "The parents were really understanding and helpful, and the local media was helpful in getting the word out."
The vice principal said the external water system was repaired by midday. The water system was then retested for use, and a backup valve system was installed.
"The good news is, we'll be ready to go [Thursday] morning, and get back to business as usual," Ames said.