There’s a point where you know the path forward may be challenging but it’s manageable.
Efforts to restore Toll Gate High School after a section of the lower building was flooded on Feb. 8 reached that point Friday after removal of floor tiles containing asbestos was completed and the building met clean air standards, Anthony Ferrucci, school director of finances, said Friday afternoon. Ferrucci, a school crew, the vice president of Single Source – the contractor hired to do the cleanup – and James Peterson of the Rhode Island Interlocal Risk Management Trust toured building. Ferrucci and Kevin Oliver and Donna Higgins, who were among the first on the scene following the water break and had been there every day since, were confident the school will reopen this Thursday.
The unanswered question as of Friday is whether the Rhode Island Department of Education will grant a waiver of the 180-day requirement for school. If not, Toll Gate graduation will need to be pushed off and the last day of school won’t come until the end of June.
As all students have Chromebooks, teachers maintained a schedule of assignments and studies throughout last week. Closure of Toll Gate also affected the nearby Warwick Area Career and Technical Center, as many WACTC students take classes at Toll Gate as well as use the school cafeteria.
A back flow preventer located in a chamber below the cafeteria was the cause of the flood. A galvanized screw-in plug the size of a silver dollar came out of the preventer, allowing the water to quickly fill the chamber and gush through the metal hatch across the cafeteria floor, down the corridor to classrooms in one direction and down a hall to the auditorium in the opposite direction.
Oliver, Warwick Public Schools maintenance and custodial supervisor, said a brass plug has been used to replace the faulty one. Also, he said, back flow preventers have been checked throughout the system with brass plugs being used to replace the galvanized ones.
Higgins, facilities maintenance and operations assistant manager for Warwick Schools, said kitchen equipment would be moved back into the school Monday and that today Aramark, which operates the food service, would return.
As of Friday, Johnston Floor Covering was on a tight schedule installing tile in the kitchen and working its way into the classroom corridor. Steve Russo, president of the company, said they would be installing 13,000 square feet of tile.
“We never miss a deadline,” Russo said when asked if he thought the tile work would be completed in time for the school to open Thursday.
On Sunday afternoon, Russo and his son, also Steve, were just finishing up an eight-hour workday. They had a couple of classrooms to re-tile, but they had no doubts that they’d have the job fully completed by the Tuesday deadline.
An additional 17,000 square feet of tile that was lifted in the corridor to the auditorium and cafeteria is slated to be replaced in April and over the summer. As this is tile that was installed when the Robert J. Shapiro Arts Center was added to the school in the early 1990s, it does not contain asbestos and hence does not pose a risk.
In addition to the tile work, Higgins said some painting and replacement of wallboard in the classrooms that was water damaged needed to be completed. Justin Pomeranz of Single Source was confident his team would have the school ready for Thursday.
Peterson was present not only to survey the progress but also, as Ferrucci explained, to get an idea of the remaining work. The Rhode Island Interlocal Risk Management Trust, which insures municipalities, retained Single Source and will be paying for the restoration work.