LAND O'LAKES — When an assistant principal unlocked the doors to Charles S. Rushe Middle School on Sunday morning, he found the floors covered with 2 inches of mud and gunky water.
Some time between Friday night and Sunday morning, a 3-inch water pipe running under the school burst — flooding the gymnasium, the administrative wing and at least three classrooms, said Gerry Brown, school system director of maintenance and facility services.
Brown said the assistant principal had had opened the school Sunday for a church that uses the facilities.
At least 100 people — environmental engineers, plumbers, custodians, contractors, architects and school employees — worked through the day and night to make sure the school could open Monday.
"We had 24 hours to get the school back in shape," Brown said.
A strip of wall a foot high had to be removed because it was soaked.
The gymnasium floor has to be removed.
The carpet in the administrative wing seemed to have handled the water well, though it was still being monitored for problems.
As of Tuesday, administrators had still not moved back into their offices. Brown said their belongings — file cabinets, bookshelves, desks, furniture — were still being dried out in hopes that some will be saved.
Brown estimates the damage at between $250,000 and $500,000 — but it was still early in the process and there was much work to be done.
The gym floor will be replaced and the walls redone during the winter holidays, he said.
He said it seems that the break happened at a place where copper pipe and PVC pipe were connected.
Brown spent 25 years doing this job in Pinellas County and has worked for the Pasco school system for three years.
He said this incident is one of the worst he has seen in his career.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4609.