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Sprinklers to blame for flooding of classrooms
Hickory Creek damage
Slayden Rogers removes a desk for a water-damaged classroom at Hickory Creek Elementary in January.

The mystery as to why the same classrooms at Hickory Creek Elementary have been left waterlogged two years in a row has been revealed.

For the second January in a row, sprinkler system pipes have burst at the school and flooded the classrooms of first-grade teachers Marianne Elliott and Toree Craven.

As a dry sprinkler system, no water should have been in the pipes unless there’s a fire and the system activates.

Director of Schools Bobby Cox says the system wasn’t as dry as its name implies.

“In that sprinkler system, a pressure relief valve is not required,” said Cox. “What was happening was water was seeping in over time. A little bit of water was getting in there and evidently, there are low spots in there. We would go in and blow the water out and release all the water that we could, but evidently, there was some water that go in there in a low spot. The last time it broke where the pipes were connected.

This time, there’s a sprinkler head on either side, it got in those sprinkler heads and froze them. When it thawed out, it burst the sprinkler heads. It just happened to be in the same classrooms.”

When the sprinkler burst, it activated the sprinkler system and doused both rooms with water.

The explanation was given during a county Education Committee meeting.

Commissioner Carl D. Bouldin asked, “So when it activated last year, they didn’t put a check valve in it?”
“No,” said Cox. “They aren’t required. The fire marshal checks it every year. We’re looking to put one in now. We’re putting a valve in. The fire marshal checks it every year and never said ‘that’s something you need to look it’ or said that would be an issue. We kept blowing the water out and checking it. Everything checked out fine.”

When asked about the school system offering financial assistance to the teachers, Cox said the school system replaces school property but personal items must go through the school’s insurance provider and a receipt for the item is required.

“The last time, our insurance provider required a receipt for every personal item that was lost. They didn’t have receipts. We can’t purchase out of our budget for personal items. We replaced all the text books and things of that type, but the auditor won’t allow us to use money out of a school system fund for items a teacher will take home if they leave the system.”

The cost of the damage is approximately $24,000 and the school system’s insurance policy has a $25,000 deductible, said Cox.