GREELEY, Colo. -- The Greeley-Evans School District is still feeling the effects of a big water main break that happened Nov. 5.
The break in a 20-inch main, and the resultant pressure surge, caused six other water line breaks and extensive damage at Meeker Elementary School.
Those repairs are taking much longer and costing much more than expected.
District communications director Theresa Myers says the total cost will be in the millions.
“The water that flooded that school actually got sucked up into the walls,” she said. “All the floors and all the wall will essentially have to be removed.”
Myers added that the compromised water pipes inside and outside the building have been repaired, “but some are still failing.”
Long Term Closure
That means that Meeker will not reopen for the remainder of the school year.
K-4 students, who have been attending classes at Generations Church, will continue to do so, Myers said, and when they return from Christmas break, 5th grade students and Special Ed kids will too.
“Generations has been wonderful to us,” Myers said. “They have generously offered to keep the students there.”
Myers told Denver7 that district officials initially thought they would only need to lease space at the church for a couple of weeks.
Now, they’ll need to, at least, through May 23.
In preparation for the extra students, seven new portable classrooms have been set up on the Greeley West High soccer fields, which are next door to the church.
Myers said that will allow the Meeker community to be in one location.
“They want to be together again,” she said. “It felt disjointed for them (to be split up). It was okay in the short, but in the long term, we know the kids need to be together.
When asked why the church decided to host the students for several more months, Pastor Eric Ebbinghaus said: “It’s our blessing to be able to show compassion and be awesome neighbors, just as we feel like scripture commands.”
Ebbinghaus said working out a schedule for use of the building has been a “challenge” that “just requires us to be a little more creative at times.”
He said no parents have complained to church officials about the move.
“There was an awkwardness at first about having school in a church and what that’s going to be like,” he said, “but most have been gracious.”
He said some of the kids, who were inclined to do so, came back to see what church was like on the weekends.
“There were some funny one-liners,” he said. “Kids saying, ‘That was way more fun than I thought it would be.’”
“The intensive-functioning special education students will go inside the church,” Myers said, along with 1st and 2nd graders. Third, 4th and 5th graders will move out to the portables.”
She said a large “self-contained” restroom unit will be brought in for students in the portable classrooms.
“Meals are still a bit of a challenge,” she said, “because there is not a commercial grade kitchen in the church.”
She said the district will provide hot meals two days a week and sandwiches the remainder of the week.
“The state has given us permission to give free lunches to every student that was impacted by this,” she said. “Students that weren’t on free lunch before, can access our free lunch program now.”
As challenging as the situation has been, Myers said there is a silver lining.
She said as the school is re-done on the inside, they will move the office.
“We’ll now have an office that is line of sight with the doorway to improve security,” she said.