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  • David Sipos

Building Briefly Loses Running Water

Credits: David Sipos

For 45 minutes on the morning of April 7, School Without Walls did not have running water beyond the first floor. Toilets would not flush, students could not wash their hands, and water fountains did not run.

According to a timeline Principal Sylvia Isaac sent to students and families after the incident, the issue was resolved by 8:55 a.m. — before the school day officially began but not before causing much frustration for students and staff alike.

As students arrived at school, the water outage persisted. Without flushing toilets or working sinks, students worried the school could become an unsanitary environment, which some suggested was against D.C. standards. Students floated the idea of canceling school for the day.

However, the water supply was restored before such actions were necessary.

The issue arose from a damaged water pump that resulted in a leak in the basement, according to custodial foreman Kenneth McCrory. “The filter casing had rusted and water was spraying all over … so they had to shut the water off in order to get everything straight,” Mr. McCrory said.

After shutting off the pump, the custodial team worked quickly to find a solution. They eventually rerouted water to a backup pump, restoring water flow to upper floors.

“We shut the water down in order to get containment … then we turned the water back on,” Mr. McCrory explained. He assured that after 9:00 a.m. clean water was available in all parts of the building.

This was a quick fix to a larger problem, however. After water was restored, the custodial team ordered parts to repair the original pump. There are other components of the plumbing system that staff are trying to repair or replace.

Students are not unfamiliar with frustrating building failures. From a broken elevator to ongoing issues with air conditioning to the water crisis this month, the school has faced multiple issues.

“It’s not the first time” the building has had issues with water, Mr. McCrory said.

He added that while the custodial staff does its best, many of these problems can’t be predicted. “This building is more than 50 years old. There’s a lot of parts that are beginning to break down,” Mr. McCrory said. “We can’t determine when it’s going to happen; all we know is that when it happens, we’re on top of it.”


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