When Monday, February 16th dawned, I never thought it would be weeks and weeks before I saw my students again. The winter had been brutal up to that point with record-breaking cold temperatures and snowstorm after snowstorm leaving behind several feet of snow. It was the cold that got us, however.
I was battling the flu that Monday when a pipe above the classroom ceiling froze and burst. I was able to get the water shut off within a few minutes of discovering the deluge, but it had been going on for up to 20 minutes and the damage was more than done. I count my lucky stars that I was home sick with the flu and not away for hours and hours. I can’t imagine how bad it would have been had I not stopped the water when I did.
I have to laugh at myself when I look back on the note I sent home to my Hogarth parents that night.
“It is with much dismay that I write to let you know we’ve had pipes freeze and burst in the classroom. We will not have school tomorrow and may need to close until after vacation to get everything straightened out. My plumber is here now, and I’ll be back in touch tomorrow when I know more. We will, of course, make these missed days up.”
How I could have looked at all that water on the floor, and the sopping wet ceiling panels overhead and thought we might be back up and running within a few days is beyond me. Talk about wishful thinking!
My first phone call that night was to my friend Doug Hinton at Drummin Plumbing and Heating. He was there within 15 minutes, pulling down ceiling panels to start the drying process, hauling out the wet area rug, and getting up as much water from the carpet and floor as he could.
My brother Arthur came right over to pitch in along with his friend Ai Welch, who used to work with a disaster response company, either Service Master or Service Pro. Ai put me in touch with InsurComm, the parent company of First Response Cleaning and Restoration. First Response was out the next morning at 8 o’clock and has been on the job ever since.
Allison, the claims representative assigned to us by The Hartford, was more an advocate than a claims rep. Knowing that this was a preschool with small children in the environment, she wanted things done right. She gave the okay for the clean-up to proceed immediately, but had to send out an adjuster to inspect the damages before any repairs could be started. Because of the number of winter-related claims being filed in the Northeast, The Hartford is operating in catastrophe mode, and there are only so many adjusters to go around. It was almost a week before an adjuster was available to inspect, so the repairs weren’t able to be started until the middle of the week following the event.
InsurComm sent out Ryan and Josh from Yelinko Improvements to handle the restoration, and I couldn’t be happier with their work.
They both have young children, and their first priority is making sure my students are going to be safe in our new and improved environment. They are meticulously installing safety latches on the doors and drawers in our new cupboards, and sanding down the sharp, rough edges on the trim they’ve placed. There’ll be no splinters for my kids!
A small school has so many benefits. Hogarth is more of a micro-school, which magnifies those benefits. I truly get to know each and every student, and they get to know me. I work directly with my assistant, which allows me to develop a good, close working bond with her. For the last few years, that assistant has been “Miss Vicki,” and she has become not only a good colleague, but a good friend. All of us in this little classroom, students and teachers alike, enjoy each other’s company. It’s a happy place to be!
The downside to such a small school is it’s the only place to be. When that classroom is out of commission, so are we. Thankfully, this is the first time in 35 years that we have been unable to be in that little classroom. With any luck, it’ll be 35 more years before we receive another knockout punch.
So now, within the next day or two, we’ll have an almost-new classroom. Hurray! My wonderful electrician Wayne Bonenfant still needs to replace the bathroom light/fan and fix one of the classroom lights, and there’s a bit of staining that still needs doing. As soon as Josh, Ryan and Wayne finish, Vicki and I will get to work putting the classroom back together. I’m restraining myself from putting a definite date for our reopening, just in case we discover something else that needs attending to. I can say with 99.99% certainty we’ll be ready to open on Monday the 16th. If we’re able to pull everything together sooner than that, I’ll let you know so we can squeeze in a PK2 class at the end of this week.
In the meantime, a thousand thanks for your patience, understanding and support these last few weeks. Hogarth families really are the best!