The district's schools were closed for two days while technicians looked for the source of the problem

While kids and staff from schools around the northwest are enjoying snow days, at North Marion School District, it is not snow, but a water problem, that has been keeping campuses closed.

PAMPLIN FILE PHOTO - North Marion High SchoolThe district first went without water partway through the day on Monday, Feb. 11. Staff informed families about the problem at about 2 p.m. that day, noting that on-campus activities would be canceled.

"You are welcome to pick up your child before normal release time," said the letter to families.

One parent said by the time she picked up her daughter, the bathrooms were "horrendous."

School was closed Tuesday as technicians worked to determine the problem.

Then on Tuesday at 8 p.m., the district sent another letter to staff and families indicating schools would be open on Wednesday, Feb. 13—though the problem had not been fixed.

"We have sufficient water to hold our regular late-start Wednesday schedule," the letter said. "Drinking water dispensers will be in place district-wide. Students and staff will be required to use temporary bathroom facilities (porta potties, including ADA units). Breakfast and cold lunch selections will be served."

This solution did not please some parents.

"This is not a legitimate answer to this problem," said parent Jill Manning. "Outhouses? Really? How many teachers and staff are going to be there to help the littles? This is putting both kids and staff in a horrible position."

Manning and other parents decided they would not send their kids to school until the water was restored.

"I spoke to other parents that, they can't take time off, and they can't keep doing this, so they are concerned, which is why people do want their kids going back and are willing to risk them going back in the condition," Manning said. "Then there's others of us that feel like it's more important for our kids to be healthy, and maybe go an extra day in the summertime, than to risk sending them back."

Two hours after announcing schools would be open, the district relented, and informed families schools would be closed Wednesday after all while technicians continued to work.

Initially it was suspected that the source of the problem was a leak from one of the water tanks, according to Diane Laubsch, district executive assistant. She said staff and technicians were working tirelessly, and that they finally traced the problem to the primary school.

Then, after spending the first part of the week stumped, technicians determined on Wednesday afternoon that the problem was a water tank alarm failure, per a final letter from the district announcing that schools would definitely be open Thursday.

The letter from Superintendent Ginger Redlinger said that water pressure was stabilized for all schools and that drinking water dispensers were in place at all facilities.

Kristen Wohlers
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