Staff must wait until spring to find and repair problem

Photo by Marcy Stamper The elementary school library was still in use despite a periodic leak affecting one wall. Sheets of plastic have been rigged up to divert water into trash cans, but shoveling snow off the roof appears to have stopped the leak for now.

Photo by Marcy Stamper

The elementary school library was still in use despite a periodic leak affecting one wall. Sheets of plastic have been rigged up to divert water into trash cans, but shoveling snow off the roof appears to have stopped the leak for now.

By Marcy Stamper

Maintenance staff at the Methow Valley School District have been shoveling a sizable area on the elementary school roof to divert water and prevent it from leaking into the library.

A leak developed on a wall of the library after the first heavy snow, which was before Thanksgiving, according to Bud Hover, the district’s director of operations and capital projects. The concrete-block wall had been an exterior wall before the library was built in a former breezeway 20 years ago.

By creating a path on the roof for melting water and snow to follow, Hover and his staff had been able to keep the leak from recurring until Thursday (Jan. 14), when water started running again, but less seriously than in November. When the leak first emerged, custodians had to empty two or three 55-gallon trash cans at least once, according to school custodian Erik Loukota.

Maintenance staff removed four acoustical ceiling tiles in the library and taped large sheets of plastic to direct the flow of water into trash cans, but no water was leaking on Tuesday (Jan. 19) and the trash cans were dry.

Loukota said they had removed an ice dam that was 2 inches thick and covered with snow. Since they’ve been shoveling every time they get more than a few inches of snow, no new ice dams have formed, he said.

Water has also leaked in the office of elementary school principal Bob Winters, on the other side of the library wall, but not anywhere else in the building. The computer lab located in a room off the library has also been dry.

Librarian Donna Leuschen moved books from three wooden bookcases — 15 shelves in all, from ABB through DUN — when the leak first occurred in November. “I panicked that the books would be ruined, but fortunately none got wet, “ she said.

After reshelving the books, “I did another emergency evacuation last week,” said Leuschen. She has relocated the books so she doesn’t need to move them again until the problem is fixed. Students can still use the library.

Hover said the problem appears to be caused by a heavy snow followed by rain or warmer temperatures, so that ice dams form at the edge of the roof and water backs up. Clearing a path of snow so the water can run out, instead of finding its way into the roof, has helped, he said.

Since the leak is on a former exterior wall of concrete block, there is no concern about mold, as there would be if it were draining into drywall, said Methow Valley Superintendent Tom Venable.

Long history of leaks

The school district has had its share of roof leaks over the years, but the elementary school has not leaked before, as far as anyone can recall. The Liberty Bell High School roof leaked almost every winter since the building opened in 1995, but the problem appears to have been resolved after the school was reroofed with a waterproof membrane in 2009.

The elementary school roof is covered a similar impermeable, seamless product, said Hover. He suspects that the roof has a hole somewhere, but he said they will not be able to locate the source of the problem until the snow is gone.

Hover does not anticipate it will be expensive to repair once they locate the source of the leak. The repair will come out of the district’s regular maintenance budget.

“I know what needs to happen. I just can’t fix it till the snow leaves,” said Hover. The district will bring in roofers to address the problem in the spring, he said.

The leak hadn’t recurred until last week, coincidentally starting to run again the day of the district’s first public meeting about the proposed maintenance and operations levy (which pays for instruction and classroom supplies, not facilities). “That wasn’t a plant,” said Venable.

Voters approved a $4.5-million facilities levy last year to update other facilities on the campus. It includes new soffits at the edge of the elementary school roof, but the existing soffits would not cause the leak, said Hover.

While the Liberty Bell roof has been dry and shedding snow, as a safety precaution the district is paying about $5,000 a year to fence the area where snow slides. They are also paying to remove accumulated snow, said Hover. He plans to research the feasibility of putting snow brakes on the roof to keep the snow in place.

They district had to replace a broken window in the music room at the high school earlier this winter, when snow slid off the roof and into the window, despite plywood angled to redirect the snow. The window has been repaired and the classroom is in use, said Hover.