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Frozen Pipe Causes Flooding at Beecher Road School

Frozen Pipe Causes Flooding at Beecher Road School


A frozen heating coil in the ceiling of a fifth grade classroom at Beecher Road School caused flooding in several classrooms during the December break.  Seven classes had to be displaced for several weeks and were moved to specialists’ rooms such as art and music, Spanish, the South Assembly Room, etc.  Also affected were several small group rooms and a copy room in the South School.

By now, most of the teachers and their students are back in their regular homerooms, but the two most impacted classrooms – Kevin McHugh’s fifth grade and Carson Echeverry’s sixth grade classrooms – are not expected to be ready for students until after the February break.

The morning of Saturday, December 30, Facilities Manager Vito Esparo received a “high humidity” notification.  When he came in to check on the problem, he found water spilling from the ceiling tiles in the affected classrooms.  The fact that the terrain is sloped allowed the water to spread to the lower wing, and affected classrooms on the other side of the main hallway.  Soon the superintendent was called in, the district business manager and the custodial staff.

The rest of the New Year’s Day weekend was dedicated to the immediate cleanup, with help from town employees, the fire department as well as Building Official Terry Gilbertson, Maintenance Foreman Brad Parsons, First Selectman Beth Heller and Finance Director Tony Genovese.  “Many of us spent the entire weekend at the school,” School Supt. Robert Gilbert said.

By the time the children came back to school on Tuesday, January 2, the school was ready to receive them.  There was a two-hour delay for students, the superintendent said, but teachers came in at the regular time.  They immediately pitched in to help each other out and set up the makeshift spaces for those displaced by the water.  It is this extraordinary spirit of cooperation that is etched in his memory, Gilbert said.

The classrooms where the leak originated are located in the S-wing behind the rotunda – the “knee” between the north and the south buildings of the school.  An energy recovery ventilation unit tucked away behind ceiling tiles — a device that facilitates energy-efficient fresh air exchange —malfunctioned and began introducing below freezing outside air into the system.  “The continuous cold air caused the heating coil to freeze and eventually burst,” the superintendent wrote in an email.

The classrooms had no carpeting, Gilbert said.  However, the water spreading on the floor soaked the foot of the drywall that separates classrooms.  Except for the two most impacted classrooms, where the problem originated, neither electronics nor the wiring were impacted.  In those two classrooms however, the projectors that are suspended from the ceiling, will have to be replaced.

A copy room on the lower side also was affected, mostly because there was carpeting that needed to be removed.  The copiers themselves were okay, Gilbert told the Board of Education at its January meeting.

He praised the patience and camaraderie that was displayed not only by the custodians, staff and the teachers, but also by the students.  “It’s the Beecher Road School spirit of patience, cooperation and teamwork that will continue to guide us through this process,” Gilbert said.

Going forward, the ventilator will automatically shut off when the outside temperature dips below 40 degrees.  In addition, the district administration has engaged a contractor to perform a comprehensive assessment of the whole HVAC system.  Given that the school building is the responsibility of the town, the first selectman has formed an ad hoc building committee to review the HVAC related events and how they relate to the recent building upgrade.  Serving on the committee will be Jeff Kaufman as chairman, Andy Esposito and John Vultee, chair of the Board of Education facilities subcommittee.  Ex officio members will be Superintendent Robert Gilbert, School District Business Manager Al Pullo and Town Hall Special Projects Manager Sheila McCreven.

The restoration work was done with school custodial staff and ServPro.  It consisted of removing the water and drying out the classrooms, using “air scrubbers,” and removing and replacing the lower part of the drywall and the baseboard, and, in some areas, the ceiling tiles.  The walls that were worked on also received a fresh coat of paint.

“Prior to the final release of rooms, each room received a top-to-bottom cleaning as well as inspections by the town building inspector, the fire marshal and Quinnipiack Valley Health District,” Gilbert said.

Some of the classroom furniture will have to be replaced over time, given that it has been standing in water, but for the time being most chairs and desks continue to be used.

By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent


  • A burst pipe caused seven classrooms at Beecher Road School to be displaced for several weeks
  • The heating unit above Kevin McHugh’s fifth grade classroom is where the leak originated
  • A burst pipe caused seven classrooms at Beecher Road School to be displaced for several weeks
  • Students in Leigh Mulligan’s class were due back in their homeroom this week after every single item had been thoroughly cleaned

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