Sydney school and courthouse remain closed due to water damage from frozen pipes
Two public buildings in Sydney, NS, remain closed for some time due to water damage after pipes froze and then burst over the weekend.
Officials at one of the high schools are still finding moisture in the walls and the provincial courthouse was badly damaged, along with some paper files and documents.
The temperature fell quickly from 3°C on Friday morning to -23°C on Friday night. In combination with strong winds, this caused an icy cold wind on Saturday.
Early Sunday morning, a sprinkler pipe burst in a science lab on the second floor of Sydney Academy, raining water onto the cafeteria and main hallway, said Lewis MacDonald, operations manager at the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Center for Education.
“It’s really the main thoroughfare of the school,” he said. “Very difficult to isolate. It’s probably the worst possible area that it could have happened in because there’s just a lot of traffic in that area.”
The water flowed through the ceiling for about 30 minutes before it could be turned off.
Contractors have been working to clean up the mess since Sunday, but as of Wednesday there was still no estimate of when the repairs would be completed as some walls are still wet and contain asbestos, MacDonald said.
“It’s really just a function of the area where we were met at Sydney Academy,” he said.
“If it was a wing or some other part of the school, we might not have had to close the school. But in this particular case where this was the case, we had no choice but to close the school. “
Administrative offices are open and the youth health center is reopening, MacDonald said, and other areas are being assessed as the cleanup continues.
Lynn Crawford-Carter, the regional director of programs and student services, said students had school-issued laptops and had switched back to virtual classes starting Thursday, just as they have during the pandemic.
“Really, it’s not a big transition because in recent years, students and staff have acquired knowledge about teaching and learning online,” she said.
Arrangements are still being made to accommodate some of the programs that take place outside of class, including sports.
Bev Phillips, whose son is in 11th grade, said he would rather be in school but he and his classmates have adapted to online learning in recent years.
“You know the routine, that kind of ‘been there and done,’ and I hope it doesn’t drag on too long.”
Aside from a letter sent late Tuesday telling parents classes would resume online Thursday, Phillips said they had received few communications from the school.
“The letter made it sound like this could be a pretty broad thing,” she said.
Phillips said her son is on the college basketball team, which had a home game Friday that was moved to the opponent’s gym. But she’s not sure what the school will do next week when the regional playoffs begin.
Phillips said she understands why school officials can’t let students in during the cleanup, but wonders why the pipe burst in the first place.
“I just remember thinking when we heard from Sydney Academy and other schools in the province and the courthouse, how did all these water breaks happen?” she said. “We’ve had cold weather before and that hasn’t happened and it doesn’t happen in other parts of the country.”
MacDonald said water pipes had frozen at other schools, but not all had burst, and the rapid drop in temperature combined with strong winds had led to an unusual weather event.
Meanwhile, the provincial court in Sydney is closed until at least the end of next week due to water damage on three floors.
The public works department, which handles the building’s lease, said several pipes burst on the second floor, ground floor and basement.
The ceilings, floors and furniture are still being examined, and the Justice Department said the damage to files and documents is not extensive, according to initial reports.
A spokesman for Nova Scotia’s judiciary said in a press release Wednesday that provincial court matters in the Sydney Magistrates’ Court will be handled virtually from the courthouse in Wagmatcook First Nation until further notice. Most other cases in Sydney provincial courts, including trials, are being postponed.
Matters of the General Chamber of the Supreme Court are handled virtually from the Port Hawkesbury Courthouse. Matters of family division are said to be dealt with mainly by telephone.
Although the Sydney building is closed, a court records post box is available behind the front door at 136 Charlotte St. and is checked daily for date stamps by court staff.
Staff in Sydney will be in touch with solicitors and court-time clients to provide further information. Those unsure of their status are asked to contact court staff.
MORE TOP STORIES