LONDONDERRY — A 75-foot roof membrane split over the weekend, allowing rain to pour into Londonderry North Elementary and soak seven classrooms Monday morning.
Principal Mary Coltin said she was called to the school shortly after dawn, when custodians alerted her to the damage. By the time Coltin got to school, water had filled one of the main hallways and spread into five first-grade classrooms and two second-grade classrooms.
"I could have taken my kayak down that hall," Coltin said.
The roof membrane on the school was easily repaired, she said, but it's going to take at least several days to dry out the soggy classrooms.
"I opened the door this morning and all I could hear was water flowing," school custodian Kevin St. Laurent said.
A section of Route 28 near Mammoth Road, just around the corner from the elementary school, was closed on account of flooding Monday afternoon, with police rerouting traffic around the nearby Mobile gas station.
Inside the school, about a dozen plastic buckets and bins were set up along a corridor to catch drips, with fans spread about to dry out the classroom carpets.
Ceiling panels in the classrooms and hallways were taken down to allow the water to drip out.
"It's an unusual situation," St. Laurent said. "This isn't something that we'd expected to happen. The membrane just let go."
Teacher Kristy Cardin's second-grade classroom suffered the worst damage; water soaked her computer, desk, personal belongings and students' assignments.
Coltin said it's unclear at this time what can be salvaged and what will need to be replaced.
In the meantime, some of the first-grade classes will receive their lessons in the music room; other first-grade classes will use a section of the library.
Second-graders were moved temporarily into a special education room and the art room.
The school's Images of Greatness event, an open house at which students dress as historical characters, had been scheduled for Monday night but was postponed until next week.
Staff and students pulled together to cope with the flooding, Coltin said.
"We had custodians from all over the district come here to help today," she said. "It's not the end of the world and things can be replaced. Fortunately, no one was hurt."
School officials are hoping the children can return to their regular classrooms toward the end of the week.
Once the water stops dripping and the carpets are fully dried, custodians will shampoo them with an anti-microbial soap to make sure mildew doesn't set in, St. Laurent said.
While a recently approved school repair bond is addressing failing roofs in several of the district's schools, North School officials noted their roof hadn't previously experienced any major problems.
"Every now and then we'll get a little leak in the ceiling," Coltin said. "But this was certainly unexpected."