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More than a foot of standing water was discovered inside parts of the new St. Francis Catholic School Saturday afternoon after water was found spraying from a pipe inside the building.

"We're heartbroken," said Billings Catholic Schools President Shaun Harrington.

Water gushing from a pipe on the west side of the building along Kate Fratt Way flooded areas on the first floor, including the choir room and parts of the gym. 

The Billings Fire Department and City of Billings water utility workers responded to the school after a neighbor reported the flooding at about 3 p.m. Saturday, according to Battalion Chief Ed Regele. 

St Francis School, a K-8 building, is located at 2202 Colton Boulevard. Construction on the building finished last summer. 

Regele said whatever caused the flooding did not appear to be related to cold temperatures. Initial reports indicated something failed between the meter and the street along a water supply line, he said.

The fire suppression line to the building remained intact, Regele said. 

Teachers and staff could be seen mopping in the building, draining out musical instruments and assessing other damage. Harrington estimated that 4 feet of standing water may have accumulated in the choir room at one point. 

In a storage area, spots of ice could be seen at about knee-level along a set of filing cabinets lining the wall. It appeared insulation had been pushed out of the wall in some places, Harrington said. 

A restoration company arrived early Saturday evening, but a total assessment of damage had yet to be made, Harrington said. The immediate goal was to find a way to continue providing water to boilers in the building in order to keep things warm enough to avoid ice buildup overnight. 

"We can't let this freeze," Harrington said. 

This is the inaugural school year for the multi-million dollar facility which combined multiple other parts of the Billings Catholic Schools system into one building. The property for the building was donated to Billings Catholic Schools in 1959. The first floor was designed to house classrooms for kindergarten through fourth-grade in addition to the school's chapel, commons and gym. 

No decision had been made early Saturday night as to whether or not classes would take place Monday, Harrington said. 


Night Reporter

General assignment reporter for The Billings Gazette.