Austin high school still recovering from Winter Storm Uri
AUSTIN, Texas - The winter storm may have been 8 months ago, but it's still taking a toll on one local high school. Bowie High School had two back-to-back leaks leading to all bathrooms in the main building having to be shut off while repairs are done.
Tuesday was day two of repairs at Bowie High School as contractors worked to fix the second leak found. "Early Monday morning, we identified that the break was beneath the administration building," said Matias Segura, Chief of Operations for Austin ISD.
The broken water pipe at Bowie High School forced the school to shut down the water for parts of the campus including its main building. Water, portable toilets, and handwashing stations were all brought in for students to use.
Laura Merritt has a daughter who goes to Bowie and says she found out about the first leak on Facebook. "I texted my daughter who was at lunch at the time and asked her if she was alright. She said, no, [she had] to go the bathroom. From her perspective, it was stressful. I mean, it's the lack of knowledge, the lack of knowing if when you are when are you going to be able to use the bathroom," said Merritt.
The repairs were completed on Monday, but a second leak was discovered the next day. All bathrooms in the main building had to be shut down for a second time. AISD informed parents that school would resume but kids could stay home with no penalties for the day.
Merritt had already sent her child to school but decided to have her come back home once she learned of the second leak. "It is frustrating and, while I'm empathetic to the situation where there are problems that sometimes don't get discovered until months later, what I understand is that this plumbing issue has been an endemic problem at Bowie for a very long time," she said.
The pipes underneath the high school are said to be the original plumbing that was installed back in 1986. The 35-year-old plumbing system mixed with the deadly winter storm in February is what is said to have caused this problem.
"Over time, these vulnerable joints just begin to fail unfortunately so it's a combination really of just aging infrastructure and then significant impacts of the system including winter storm Urie," said Segura.
While repairs continued for the second time in only 48 hours, porta-potties and handwashing stations were set up outside the main building to ensure school can continue.
"We have adequate water. We have adequate supplies here at the school so there's no point in sending our scholars home because we have what they need," said Sheila L. Henry, Executive Director of High Schools, Austin ISD.
Merritt hopes AISD works on better communication of issues as she hopes this does not happen again. "As I understand it, this has been a problem for years and they just keep having to bandage it, patch it and do little repairs that then add up to large systemic failures that caused this kind of disruption," said Merritt.
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