LAUREL HIGH ROOF

No school Tuesday at rain-battered Laurel High School

2011-08-29T18:26:00Z 2011-08-30T06:00:03Z No school Tuesday at rain-battered Laurel High School

By ED KEMMICK

Of The Gazette Staff

The Billings Gazette
August 29, 2011 6:26 pm  • 

Laurel High School was heavily damaged during a cloudburst Monday afternoon, resulting in the cancellation of classes Tuesday.

Laurel School Superintendent Tim Bronk said a roofing contractor was laying down a new section of a rubberlike material when a storm accompanied by high winds blew through Laurel about 2:15 p.m. and ripped up the roofing.

That left nothing but a layer of plywood between the rain and the school interior, and rainwater soon soaked through ceiling tiles and poured into five or six classrooms and one hallway, Bronk said.

“I don’t know how much rain we got, but it just poured out here,” he said.

Students were moved to safe areas of the school for the duration of the storm, while teachers and other staff members unplugged computers and other electronic equipment.

Bronk said the classroom hit the hardest was the computer lab, which housed more than 30 computers. Virtually every ceiling tile in that room fell out, he said, and water rained down on the computers.

“We removed computers after the fact, but it was a little late at that point,” Bronk said.

He said the district brought in the entire maintenance and housecleaning crews and they cleaned up all the fallen tile, sopped up water, dried off every surface they could and set up fans. A disaster restoration company was coming in to assess the damage and help with the cleanup.

Bronk said the district will also listen to the advice of the restoration company in deciding when to call students back to the school. High school enrollment was pegged at 644 in grades 9 through 12 on Monday, the third day of the new school year.

The contractor, Empire Roofing, will be liable for the damage, Bronk said. Crews were replacing 85 to 90 percent of the high school roof, putting down a new synthetic rubber material called Hypalon.

Bronk said a kind of chemical sealant is used to seal overlapping seams of the material, and when the storm blew in the section of roof being worked on had not been sealed yet, which is why the high winds ripped up the synthetic rubber.

“It blew everything wide open on them,” he said.

In addition to damage to the computers and the building itself, Bronk said some textbooks and other teaching materials were damaged, but he had no dollar estimate on the damage yet.

Teachers will be in the school Tuesday, he said. Those in undamaged classrooms can catch up on coursework while those in classrooms battered by the rain will help inventory the damage. Students will be compensated for any losses or damage, Bronk said.

“If a student lost one notebook out of the deal, we’re going to replace it,” he said.

Bronk, who took over as superintendent on July 1, sounded a little overwhelmed but also determined.

“You spend all summer getting your school all ready to go. ... Now we’ll have to start at ground zero again,” he said.

Contact Ed Kemmick at ekemmick@billingsgazette.com or 657-1293.

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