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Flooded Northern Alberta school requires millions in repairs

Initial estimates of $2.5 million to re-open Plamondon school flooded by 250,000 litres of water

It could cost as much as $2.5 million to re-open École Plamondon School after a massive flood sent waves of water through the K-12 school last month. 

Northern Lights Public Schools superintendent Rick Cusson told Lakeland This Week that the costs will be covered through the division’s insurance policy. 

The school was flooded on April 18, just as classes were finishing for the day. It is believed a water main broke underneath an empty classroom, forcing as much as 250,000 litres of water into the building. The rushing water filled the empty classroom with as much as five feet of water before the pressure buckled the room's door, sending water gushing through the building that also houses the community's public library. The damage affected almost every corner of the school that caters to more than 300 area students. No one was injured during the flood. 

School officials have already said the school will remain closed until at least September. Students and staff have found temporary classrooms at several venues across the community, including the Plamondon Festival Centre, the neighbouring Francophone school, and Portage College in Lac La Biche. 

Given that the cleanup is a work in progress, Cusson said, that price tag could either increase or decrease.  

It is not clear yet if provincial funding could assist with any disruptions caused by the flood and school closure, says area MLA and Alberta’s Minister of Energy and Minerals Brian Jean. 

The MLA toured the school on May 3, seeing the damage and disruption first-hand. When asked about provincial funding, Jean said the government supports the province’s education system. 

“I know the province is always there in relation to education because that’s one of our responsibilities,” Jean said, suggesting that more information could be found by contacting education officials. 

Cusson says the review of the damage is ongoing. The initial investigation indicates the main water line coming into the school needs to be replaced. A significant amount of flooring will also need to be replaced.  

“And then after that, we’ve got a fair amount of work around the walls where the water did creep up to a level to make the sheetrock wet,” Cusson explained. 

Other issues like structural integrity, electrical systems and specific classroom equipment will be part of the ongoing review. 

Cusson said NLPS officials have been speaking regularly with the provincial department of Education.  

On immediate need, he said, relates to transportation of students to their temporary classrooms. That issue, he said continues to be a discussion point with provincial and regional officials.  

Cusson says that through all of the disruptions, reviews, ongoing cleanup and projected plans for re-opening, the most important factor is the safety of the students.  

“The contractors are only going to be able to progress as quickly as they can,” he said. “Ideally, we’d like to get the kids back in as soon as possible but it’s got to be a safe environment for them to return to.” 

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