Steamboat Springs An early-rising custodian likely prevented disaster Friday by spotting a leaky water heater that led to school cancellations in Oak Creek.
Kelly Reed, superintendent of the South Routt School District, and secondary principal James Chamberlin praised the district's custodial staff for catching the problem shortly after 4 a.m. Friday. After talking with custodian Frank Torres and maintenance director Larry Radford, Reed canceled school for the day at Soroco High School and Soroco Middle School. South Routt Elementary School in Yampa was not affected by the leak. Reed said repairs began Friday - restoring heat to the high school and allowing two basketball games to take place at Soroco High on Friday night - and classes at all district schools will resume as normal Monday.
"We had a water heater that sprung a major leak, but it wasn't a water main. It flooded the boiler room, and we had to get the water shut off and allow the motors and circulating pumps to dry out before we could restart the heating units," Reed said. "So we were without heat, which is why we had to cancel school."
Reed said there was "about 3 feet of water down there in the basement" at the high school, but no property damage occurred.
Chamberlin said Torres identified the problem just in time.
"Frank Torres caught the leak early enough (Friday) morning that it didn't get up into the electronic systems of the boiler," Chamberlin said. "If it would have been about an hour later, it probably would have fried the circuit board. Frank was the hero in finding it."
Frying the circuit board would not have been a good situation for the two schools in the middle of winter.
"We would have been without heat for quite a while," Chamberlin said. "My hat is off to the custodial crew for finding the problem early and getting on it."
Chamberlin said heat in the high school was restored Friday.
South Routt voters last November approved a property tax increase to help replace antiquated coal-fired boilers at South Routt schools, but Chamberlin said Friday's leak was not directly related to the age of the boilers installed in 1970.
"It was related to a water valve inside the domestic hot water boiler," he said. "That's what broke."
Chamberlin said according to the latest timeline he has heard, the new heating system should be "up and ready to go by Sept. 10."
"They're going to take this one offline toward the end of May," he said.
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