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School water leaks turn into annual event

ST. IGNATIUS – Water droplets sporadically fell from the ceiling in an English classroom at St. Ignatius High School last Thursday while students read their books. 

“It’s dripping all around us,” said senior Sierra Esslinger as she picked up her books after the bell rang. 

Teacher Tim Marchant looked at a few wet tiles bulging from the ceiling in his classroom and said they would probably fall apart if he touched them. 

The St. Ignatius School District is dealing with several leaks inside the school coming from the roof caused by rain and melting snow. “We’ve got lots of water coming down in the school,” Superintendent Jason Sargent said. He added that the gutters on the elementary school were also broken in some places from freezing water. 

Sara Keast said the kids are getting used to the water dripping in the school when the snow melts because it has happened every year for about seven years, but it’s getting worse.  She said this year “it was a distraction” when the water came down “like a waterfall” in her room after janitors started working to remove snow on the roof. 

In another classroom, the ceiling tiles are missing along the edge of the wall where the weight of the water and insulation broke through. Mrs. Joe Phillips said she thought the water ruined a printer in her classroom when the damage first occurred, but luckily, the machine started working after it dried out. 

“I’ve been teaching here for 30 years and this is the first time damage has happened in my classroom to this extent,” she said.

In the teacher’s lounge, a stack of unused paper was ruined where the water poured in. A 30-gallon size trashcan now sits full of water under the leak. 

A few weeks ago, a water puddle formed on the gym floor in the middle of the building, causing a basketball game to be moved to Ronan. The ceiling is patched up in that spot now, so the kids are back in the gym.

Sargent said the leaking roof is an ongoing battle. He described the situation as something similar to what goes on in an emergency room hospital. “When a problem happens, we do the best we can to fix it, but we are not able to do any preventative work. It’s a reactive situation.” 

He said the school is getting older and needs repaired, but the issue started when the school was designed. “Why they ever decided to put a flat roof on a school in this part of the country is beyond me,” he said of parts of the school. “It’s a horrible design.”

The superintendent said state funding hasn’t been enough to cover many repairs and maintenance issues in the past few years, so he has tried twice to pass a levy to get funding to fix structural problems, and applied for grants, but neither funding avenue worked out. He isn’t considering trying to run another levy at this time.

Sargent said the administrator before him missed an opportunity to fix the problem. He said the school had $4 million in savings and a grant that were both used to put up new siding on the high school, build a new entrance way, lunchroom and classrooms. He believes the money should have been used to fix the roof and other problems.

The school is also operating with an old boiler that isn’t adequate enough to get hot water to the showers in the locker rooms. He said the school also needs another gym to provide enough space to serve all the students.

“It’s an injustice for our kids to have these conditions,” he said. “We would like the facilities to match the great things we are doing in the school. We have a great staff and students. We have a model school system with a platinum rating through (Montana Behavior Institute). The facilities are just a hurdle we need to overcome.”  

Sargent hopes snow and rain don’t cause more damage to the school before the winter is over. He said the janitors will work on patching the problem areas outside the building as soon as the weather allows.Story and photos                           by Karen Peterson                   Valley Journal 

ST. IGNATIUS – Water droplets sporadically fell from the ceiling in an English classroom at St. Ignatius High School last Thursday while students read their books. 

“It’s dripping all around us,” said senior Sierra Esslinger as she picked up her books after the bell rang. 

Teacher Tim Marchant looked at a few wet tiles bulging from the ceiling in his classroom and said they would probably fall apart if he touched them. 

The St. Ignatius School District is dealing with several leaks inside the school coming from the roof caused by rain and melting snow. “We’ve got lots of water coming down in the school,” Superintendent Jason Sargent said. He added that the gutters on the elementary school were also broken in some places from freezing water. 

Sara Keast said the kids are getting used to the water dripping in the school when the snow melts because it has happened every year for about seven years, but it’s getting worse.  She said this year “it was a distraction” when the water came down “like a waterfall” in her room after janitors started working to remove snow on the roof. 

In another classroom, the ceiling tiles are missing along the edge of the wall where the weight of the water and insulation broke through. Mrs. Joe Phillips said she thought the water ruined a printer in her classroom when the damage first occurred, but luckily, the machine started working after it dried out. 

“I’ve been teaching here for 30 years and this is the first time damage has happened in my classroom to this extent,” she said.

Story and photos                           by Karen Peterson                   Valley Journal 

ST. IGNATIUS – Water droplets sporadically fell from the ceiling in an English classroom at St. Ignatius High School last Thursday while students read their books. 

“It’s dripping all around us,” said senior Sierra Esslinger as she picked up her books after the bell rang. 

Teacher Tim Marchant looked at a few wet tiles bulging from the ceiling in his classroom and said they would probably fall apart if he touched them. 

The St. Ignatius School District is dealing with several leaks inside the school coming from the roof caused by rain and melting snow. “We’ve got lots of water coming down in the school,” Superintendent Jason Sargent said. He added that the gutters on the elementary school were also broken in some places from freezing water. 

Sara Keast said the kids are getting used to the water dripping in the school when the snow melts because it has happened every year for about seven years, but it’s getting worse.  She said this year “it was a distraction” when the water came down “like a waterfall” in her room after janitors started working to remove snow on the roof. 

In another classroom, the ceiling tiles are missing along the edge of the wall where the weight of the water and insulation broke through. Mrs. Joe Phillips said she thought the water ruined a printer in her classroom when the damage first occurred, but luckily, the machine started working after it dried out. 

“I’ve been teaching here for 30 years and this is the first time damage has happened in my classroom to this extent,” she said.

In the teacher’s lounge, a stack of unused paper was ruined where the water poured in. A 30-gallon size trashcan now sits full of water under the leak. 

A few weeks ago, a water puddle formed on the gym floor in the middle of the building, causing a basketball game to be moved to Ronan. The ceiling is patched up in that spot now, so the kids are back in the gym.

Sargent said the leaking roof is an ongoing battle. He described the situation as something similar to what goes on in an emergency room hospital. “When a problem happens, we do the best we can to fix it, but we are not able to do any preventative work. It’s a reactive situation.” 

He said the school is getting older and needs repaired, but the issue started when the school was designed. “Why they ever decided to put a flat roof on a school in this part of the country is beyond me,” he said of parts of the school. “It’s a horrible design.”

The superintendent said state funding hasn’t been enough to cover many repairs and maintenance issues in the past few years, so he has tried twice to pass a levy to get funding to fix structural problems, and applied for grants, but neither funding avenue worked out. He isn’t considering trying to run another levy at this time.

Sargent said the administrator before him missed an opportunity to fix the problem. He said the school had $4 million in savings and a grant that were both used to put up new siding on the high school, build a new entrance way, lunchroom and classrooms. He believes the money should have been used to fix the roof and other problems.

The school is also operating with an old boiler that isn’t adequate enough to get hot water to the showers in the locker rooms. He said the school also needs another gym to provide enough space to serve all the students.

“It’s an injustice for our kids to have these conditions,” he said. “We would like the facilities to match the great things we are doing in the school. We have a great staff and students. We have a model school system with a platinum rating through (Montana Behavior Institute). The facilities are just a hurdle we need to overcome.”  

Sargent hopes snow and rain don’t cause more damage to the school before the winter is over. He said the janitors will work on patching the problem areas outside the building as soon as the weather allows.

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