After icy hiatus, Acadiana schools back on track

Damage control

While no major repairs were needed at Lafayette Parish schools in the wake of this week’s winter storm, patches of unthawed ice across campuses and a few frozen pipes would have complicated students’ safe return, school officials said Thursday.

Students were expected to return to classes Friday after being out of school since Tuesday due to freezing rain and snow in some parts of Acadiana.

In St. Martin Parish, schools in Cecilia — Cecilia Primary, Teche Elementary, Cecilia Junior High and Cecilia High — remained closed Friday due to low water pressure. All other schools in the parishes were set to reopen Friday.

On Thursday, maintenance workers surveyed campus issues and repaired minor issues, such as broken pipes at Plantation Elementary, Comeaux High and Katharine Drexel Elementary, said Thad Welch, special assistant to the superintendent over facilities, maintenance, grounds and transportation.

“Our people did work preparing and getting ready,” Welch said. “We insulated pipes and made sure the heat was running.”

The issues were quick fixes and contained to exterior buildings.

At Plantation Elementary, maintenance worker Carlton Broussard repaired a broken hot water pipe that fed into the school’s cafeteria from a screened-in storage area and another busted pipe inside the greenhouse at Comeaux High School. Inside the greenhouse, heat lamps provided warmth to a flock of chickens.

Icy patches still dotted shady areas of walkways on most campuses as of 11 a.m. Thursday.

Principal Denise Soileau, of Katharine Drexel Elementary, pointed out trouble spots as she walked up the elevated, aluminum walkway that led to a portable building housing restrooms.

“This walkway right here was totally frozen,” Soileau said.

By noon, the walkway had thawed, but not the water in the toilets inside the portable building. Water from a busted pipe under the sink basin also left a watery mess on the bathroom floor.

“This gives us a day to fix the pipes,” she said Thursday. “If we would have had kids back today without restrooms, that’s a big deal. I have four sets of restrooms for 600 students. When you knock out one set, you’re really affecting the flow of the school day.”

At Burke Elementary, covered walkways into the building were still layered with ice Thursday morning, said Angela Morrison, school district spokeswoman.

Welch said maintenance workers and custodians planned to scrape any remaining icy areas of sidewalks Thursday.