On Wednesday morning Cos Cob School Kindergartners, 1st and 2nd graders returned to their school after what Superintendent Ralph Mayo recently referred to as the longest field trip ever.
“I can’t stop smiling,” said principal Gene Schmidt said on Wednesday. “It has been quite a process for over that last two months.”
Back in October a faulty faucet in the second floor art room caused a weekend flood. Falling ceiling tiles set off motion detectors, alerting authorities, but the damage was done. The school was closed from October 8-12.
From there, Kindergartners were relocated Parkway School and 1st and 2nd graders to Old Greenwich School. Students in grades 3-5 remained at Cos Cob School in unimpacted parts of the building.
The damage cost the district about $1.9 million which was covered by insurance, but for a deductible.
On Wednesday morning, the entire school population was reunited in the auditorium where principal Schmidt and assistant principal Michael Reid shot canisters of confetti in the air.
Students were then treated to a surprise visit from Mario the Maker Magician, whose performance featured a STEAM theme, including a 3D printed sidekick named Marcel the money.
Mario’s handmade props, magic tricks and interactive performance was met with children’s screams of delight.
Since the flood, Principal Schmidt was based at Cos Cob School where he and staff worked with the BOE and the contractor, Wernert Construction Management to reconstruct impacted areas.
Mr. Schmidt said he had been smiling throughout December because the construction remained on schedule.
“The nightmare was limited to the first night,” he recalled. “From there, it was just a process and we stuck to the process.”
“To know we’d be back on the first day after the New Year was wonderful,” he said.
Assistant principal Reid, who traveled between Parkway School and Old Greenwich School for the duration, said the experience gave him a higher appreciation of Cos Cob School.
“Most parents were beyond supportive and helpful,” he said. “But there were some stressors.”
Reid pointed out that for kindergartners this year was their first school experience, and having to leave their new school for another was a lot to grapple with.
“And back in October, waiting for Christmas seemed like forever,” he said.
As of Wednesday all the impacted classrooms were in use, though the school was still using the rear entrance. The main office, which is under the art room where the flood originated, still needed some equipment moved from the temporary office.
Also, the art room, media center and reading room were within days of being unpacked and back in business.
Upstairs in the media center and art room, where the flood originated, head custodian Dale Ginise said the faulty sink faucet was just a year old.
“The last request had been for a clogged drain,” Ginise said, adding that in the art room kids work with clay and finger paints, which can clog a drain.
A brief history on that faucet parallels the history of the school.
The faulty faucet replaced the one that dated back to 1992 when the school was rebuilt following a major fire in 1990.
In fact, back then 274 Cos Cob School students were relocated to Parkway School, which had been shuttered due to low enrollment.
During a tour of the school on Wednesday, the building felt brand new.
In the media center, soft stackable furniture cubes, which were new in 2015, were gone.
“They were upholstered and on the floor,” Schmidt explained. “We didn’t take a chance on anything that could get mold.”
Carpeting, desks and counters were all removed and replaced, as was the bottom two feet of all the dry wall in impacted rooms. Also, book cases, which were made of particleboard were removed and replaced.
“We wanted to make sure there was no possibility that down the road there could be no mold,” Reid said.
“Throughout the process, there was testing and retesting for moisture,” Schmidt said.
“They used something that looked like a meat thermometer. They stuck it into the wall to register moisture. And there was none.”