Flood damage closesCos Cob School
GREENWICH — Cos Cob School will remain closed for at least the rest of the week as Greenwich Public School officials continue assessing the widespread damage caused by flooding from a broken pipe over the weekend.
It was not clear how long the cleanup will take, school officials said Tuesday.
The district plans to relocate kindergartners and first- and second-graders to other buildings, while students in grades 3, 4 and 5 will return to the third floor of the Cos Cob School. But as of Tuesday, the district had not determined when any of the more than 400 students would return to classrooms.
“It was not an easy decision to close portions of Cos Cob School for an extended period of time,” Interim Superintendent Ralph Mayo said in a statement. “However, in order to keep our children safe and provide necessary access for construction crews to expedite the restoration, it is the right decision.”
Over the weekend, a plumbing fixture broke in the school’s art room on the second floor. The leak impacted the art room, the media center, computer rooms and the makers space on the second floor, and the nurse’s office, the main office, three first grade classrooms, two kindergarten rooms and the music room on the first floor.
The water damaged ceiling tiles, which fell Sunday and set off a burglar alarm, said Lt. John Slusarz, a spokesman for the Greenwich Police Department. That alerted officers, who discovered the leak Sunday night while checking on the school’s security, he said.
That night, the fire department, Mayo, Cos Cob Principal Gene Schmidt and district and school facilities staff started to review the damage.
School officials closed Cos Cob School on Monday and Tuesday as environmental and restoration contractors assessed the leak and determined the extent of the water damage and the necessary cleanup, remediation and restoration. An orange sign outside said, “This structure has been declared dangerous and unsafe for human occupancy.”
Because of the extent of the damage and to allow access for workers, officials decided to close the entire school. The district has scheduled a school staff meeting for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Havemeyer Building and a parent meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Central Middle School Auditorium.
“I understand that this decision will have a major impact on the Cos Cob and host school communities, but I am confident that working together we will develop a plan that ensures the continued education of our students and the safety of the school community,” Mayo said. “I would like to thank the entire community in advance for supporting the district to make this plan a reality.”
The kindergartners will be moving to Parkway School, and Old Greenwich School will take in the first- and second-graders.
Third-, fourth- and fifth-graders will have classes on the third floor and will have access to the building’s cafeteria and gym, which were not damaged by the leak.
The Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich is offering free child care for Cos Cob School families from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Parents should email the principal if they need child care.
On Tuesday, 27 Cos Cob students went to the Boys & Girls Club, supervised by five staff members, said CEO Bobby Walker, Jr. He expected about 50 students on Wednesday and planned to recruit up to eight personnel to help.
The BGCG will group the students by grade, and offer arts and crafts and games as well as use of the computer lab, turf field and swimming pool, Walker said.
”We’re trying to keep the kids meaningfully occupied, and engaged with each other and staff,” he said. ”I joked about bringing out math worksheets, and one girl said, ‘OK.’”
Providing free care was a nice gesture, Cos Cob PTA Co-President Dawn Silver said.
“That’s definitely a stress for a lot of parents coming in and out of work,” she said.
Silver and other parents have exchanged a flurry of emails and texts to coordinate after-school care and car pooling since the closure began Monday.
“It’s been teamwork so far, which is nice,” she said.
Waiting for a return-date has frustrated parents, Silver said. Some struggled Monday morning to find child care, and relied on other parents in the community.
Lorelei O’Hagan works in New York City and uses both before and after-school care. On Tuesday, she worked from home. O’Hagan noted that if she is struggling, then other parents without job flexibility are probably struggling more.
As an RTM District 2 member, she is wondering what the town can do to help. O’Hagan is concerned about how to drop off her child 20 minutes away and have time to get to work; extended hours for care; and busing to school and programs.
“This is a crisis for our town,” she said.
Cooperation from the Boys & Girls Club is valuable, she said but closing at 5 p.m. means leaving work at 4:15 p.m., which is not sustainable.
O’Hagan predicted that longer hours for after-care and transportation to and from programs will be major problems, and suggested extending after-care beyond 6 p.m. to accommodate parents who are battling traffic.
“The whole neighborhood had this sigh of, ‘Holy cow, what are we going to do?’” she said. “This affects everybody.”
The leak and closure bring back memories of the fire that destroyed Cos Cob School in the ’90s, when some parents were students themselves.
“It’s another crazy, nutty thing to happen at the school,” Silver said.
The PTA co-president has fielded emails from parents offering to clean up the school and host other children in the morning.
“We’ve said it so many times, but the fire rallied everyone together. Unfortunately, we’re seeing it in action,” Silver said. “It makes me proud.”
Not knowing how long children will be displaced has been hard, Silver said. She tries to keep her first-grader excited about the change, talking about the new playground and classroom in Old Greenwich, and the “amazing, new room” when Cos Cob reopens.
“It’s out of our control,” she said. “If we don’t show the stress from it, it’s better for the kids.”
Not for her 4-year-old, though, she said, who keeps asking her: “Why do I have to go to school?”