By Joe Anuta
Ridgewood enjoyed blue skies and milder temperatures last week, but classes and daycare were suddenly canceled at Christ the King High School when a water main burst, but e-mail and social networking helped quickly notify the community.
Custodial workers discovered water flowing into a boiler room in the basement of the school, at 68-02 Metropolitan Ave., when they arrived to work at 4 a.m., according to Michael Michel, president of the school.
“The break was outside, but the water was pouring into the building,” he said.
More than 1,100 students and children attend high school and daycare in the building and they all had to be notified of the school cancellation within hours. And the pleasant weather meant that no one would be expecting it.
“When we have a snowstorm, everybody watches the news,” Michel said. “This was a different type of emergency. If it looks like a normal day, you just come to daycare. This was a normal day and the building was shut down.”
Michel and his staff made calls and sent out e-mails, but a major boon to his efforts came from students, who used social media sites to express their jubilation at the unexpected free time.
“A lot of our students used their Facebook and Twitter accounts, so it worked out well,” Michel said. “Our emergency notification worked.”
As proof, Michel said that only 45 out of the 1,100 students showed up for school and daycare.
“We had some parents that were a little upset in the daycare because they had to get to work and make other arrangements,” he said.
And those angry parents were the subject of a meeting the next day, where Michel outlined an improved plan to alert a larger number of people when school is delayed or canceled.
Michel said that parents need to provide with one main number that they most frequently answer.
“We might have five numbers for one family,” he said, which takes time to call all of them when his staff has an average of two hours to alert the whole school.
The school was closed in the first place because the water main had to be shut down for repairs.
“You’re not allowed to have anybody in the building with no water,” Michel said.
And students probably would not want to be in the building anyway since all the bathrooms, drinking fountains and sprinkler systems were dry.
The school was not damaged by the water, but plumbers worked for nearly 12 hours to dig and reach the cracked main, cut out the broken section and replace it with a new one. Michel estimates the cost at between $15,000 to $20,000.
The last time a water main broke at the school was about 15 years ago, he added.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.