Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Chris Collins


Most Haines School students are expected to return to class Thurday, but not in their regular classrooms.

Haines students in preschool and Grades 2-6 will instead gather at the former North Baker School building in Baker City because a broken fire sprinkler above a second-floor classroom in the Haines School caused severe water damage to the building Saturday night.

All Haines students except kindergarteners and first-graders are being moved to the North Baker building at 2725 Seventh St.

The kindergartners and first-graders will remain at Haines, occupying the modular classrooms that sit behind the Haines School building. They were not damaged in the flooding.

No estimate of the damage is available yet, Superintendent Walt Wegener said Tuesday. Insurance will pay for the repairs.

He said it appears the upstairs and downstairs hallways will have to be rebuilt along with the fifth- and sixth-grade classroom. The floor ofthe third-grade classroom will have to be replaced.

Wegener said there was an inch of water on floors of the first-floor preschool classroom and the kitchen. Both rooms sustained major damage.

Wegener estimated that 7,000 gallons of water drenched the school during the 50 minutes before the water from the burst ceiling sprinkler was turned off.

Patty Howe, who works as a custodian at Baker Middle School and lives at Haines nextdoor to the school, said she and her husband, Richard, heard the alarm signalling trouble at the building about 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

They found the broken sprinkler pipe, began notifying district administrators and called the Haines Fire Department.

Wegener said 80 to 100 people, including staff and community volunteers worked Sunday and Monday to move the Haines classrooms to the North Baker School.

"Everybody pitched in," he said. "It made for less than a restful Martin Luther King Day, but we got done what we needed to get done," he said.

"It's an amazing community that can move a school over a weekend."

Sue Richard, whose fifth- and sixth-grade classroom took the first hit from water that poured from the broken sprinkler, was overwhelmed by the support.

"We have emptied Haines school," she said, including materials and supplies from the cafeteria to the library and classroom technology components.

"People who have no connection to Haines School are helping," she said tearfully. "That touches my heart."

Students in Grades 2-6 are being moved to the north end of the North Baker building, which has been occupied by the YMCA. The YMCA preschool program will remain in the building and share its space with the school district's preschool program, said Heidi Dalton, Y director.

The rest of the Y's equipment and supplies, most of which are used in the YMCA summer programs, will be moved to storage, Dalton said. The Y will continue to use the North Baker gym for its evening fitness programs.

The district will be on the lookout for students who might not have heard about the school closure, Wegener said. A vehicle will be on standby at D and B where some students catch the North Powder bus and are dropped off at Haines and another will be stationed at Haines to pick up any students who show up there.

Wegener said Haines School will be back in full operation as soon as possible.

"We know we've lost some parts of the building, but it will be repaired," he said. "Haines is a secure institution. It is a strategic and valuable building."