October 7, 2010 |

Persistent leak vexes school officials

School district secretary Ashley Heinrich grabs a sheet of visqueen before leaving her office at night every time it’s windy and rainy.

"I cover the copy machine, the faxes and the computers, just to be sure," Heinrich said this week. Her office near the open area of the high school is ground zero for water that infiltrates the school, although no one is quite sure from where.

It’s been making its way into the school for at least four years and perhaps more than a decade.

During Tuesday’s storm, Heinrich was using two garbage cans, three cooking pans and two coffee cups to catch water that typically leaks from an overhead beam in the center of the office. "I haven’t cleaned it up because I know as soon as I do, it’ll start raining again."

Contractors and school officials who’ve inspected the 42-by-34 foot flat roof above the office say it’s not clear how water is entering the building. The district last year held off on a $26,000 estimate for a new, membrane surface on the roof based on the fact that leakage is only a problem when the wind is blowing.

That wind issue led borough officials to look for spots vulnerable to blown rain, and specifically at flashing on a wall that abuts the roof. Work done there this summer, including filling cracks, however, didn’t stem the problem.

"When they said it was obvious, I was skeptical, because it’s never been obvious," school maintenance man Gary Stigen told the school board this week.

Borough facilities chief Brad Maynard said the question is a vexing one. "You hate to spend $26,000 on a new roof, then find out it still leaks like a sieve when the wind blows. This kind of thing that can be a Catch-22."

School superintendent Michael Byer said he’s heard novel explanations, including that wind blowing over the school creates negative pressure inside the building, creating a vacuum that literally sucks in moisture. "There are all kinds of theories."

Secretary Heinrich said she thinks perhaps some progress was made this summer, as leaks from the ceiling above the open area seem to have stopped.