LAWRENCE — A valve replacement near the Gerard Guilmette School yesterday caused the building to go without water for most of the day.
Director of Public Works director John Isensee said a crew was working on a 16-inch water main break and had Hancock Street closed. As workers were in the process of replacing the 12-inch valve, they found a faulty key that also had to be changed, which made the job four hours longer than expected.
“Things did not go quite as we planned,” Isensee said. “This is a problem that if we don’t address it becomes a safety issue.”
The project at the rotary on Bodwell and Hancock streets is one of as many as 200 water valves which were identified as faulty throughout the city. The James Hennessey School on Hancock Street was not affected by the low water pressure.
The valves need to be replaced because they have jammed shut and changing them would improve pressure to fire hydrants. So far, he said 45 valves have been replaced.
“We understand why parents were upset, but it’s a necessary evil that is long overdue,” Isensee said.
Lori Butterfield, principal of the elementary school and Melissa Spash Larco, principal of the middle school sent a letter home to parents explaining the situation.
“While we were without water the situation was closely monitored,” the letter said.
Butterfield and Larco said the building which houses the elementary and secondary schools was without water from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
After speaking with Lawrence Public School’s facilities management and the city’s Department of Public Schools, they were told the water problem would be resolved within two hours. It was then the principals decided not to send the students home, “knowing that many parents are not home and at work.”
The school nurse called parents of students with medical issues and gave the option to have their children dismissed, according to the letter.
“Water at the basement level flowed more readily, allowing us to open bathrooms during the lunch break. The kitchen also had access to water based on their lower location, ensuring safe handling of food.”