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Flood Causes Damage to Mills Preschool

Taylor Conrad

A fire sprinkler pipe broke in the preschool building of the Mills Children’s School, flooding the school last week and causing extensive damage to interiors, floors and personal items of students and teachers.The six inch pipe broke at 12:25 p.m. on April 14, setting off an alarm which alerted Public Safety and Campus Facilities. Within an hour of being called, JR Construction arrived and began repairs after three to four hours, according to Paul Richards, director of Campus Facilities. “The teachers were wonderful about helping out and we mobilized our whole team here,” said Richards. “We were really successful at mobilizing.”The massive damage of the flood won’t be cheap to repair.“It’s going to cost the whole insurance deductible,” said Richards, though he couldn’t give an estimate.According to Richards, classes at the preschool will be out of session for the rest of this week. “The fire sprinkler is broken, so it’s a fire hazard to open the school,” said Richards.“Within 45 minutes we knew we had a colossal mess and a lot of telephone calls and planning to do,” said Director of the Children’s School Suzanne Di Lillo.Carolyn Otis-Catanzaro, whose son attends the Mills Children’s School, said, “I got a phone call saying that there was more extensive damage than what they had originally thought and that school would be closed this week as well.” Even though Otis-Catanzaro has backup child care for her son, she said she can see it being a problem for others. “It was an unforeseen accident, of course – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t cause some hardships for some families because finding backup childcare can be really difficult,” she said. The event was similar to one that occurred in Mills Hall in 1998 after renovation, according to Richards. “We believe it was caused by electrolysis in the ground,” said Richards. Electrolysis occurs when there is a charge between two materials in the ground. The combination of materials in the soil, the pipe and the water in the pipe had a reaction that caused the pipe to rot and malfunction. “We had 40 Mills employees, in addition to our staff, here helping right away,” said Di Lillo. “The way everyone worked together as a team was really remarkable.”