BURLINGTON - The 45 year-old HVAC system at Burlington High School (BHS) recently showed its age after springing a leak that caused much of the lower level of the building to flood.

Bob Cunha, director of technology and operations for the School Department, recently briefed the School Committee on the incident. On the morning of Saturday, May 9, BHS Principal Mark Sullivan visited the school to complete an errand, when he noticed water was leaking from the ceiling, which was due to a copper pipe bursting in one of the penthouse systems on the roof.

“Since water flows downhill, it ended up at the bottom portion of the school where the gyms and locker rooms are located,” explained Cunha. “The wrestling room also ended up flooded.”

School Supt. Dr. Eric Conti detailed there was up to five or six inches of water in the John Vanella Gymnasium, resulting in the wooden floor being declared ruined. The worst of the flooding was in the Vanella Gym, as most of the water ended up there.

Cunha mentioned the only “good news” was that Sullivan was in the area at the time, but the more pressing bad news is that there is “a lot” of damage. Not long after arriving to the school, Sullivan contacted the necessary people to come and help clean up. Since that fateful Saturday, the crews have been vacuuming, running dehumidifiers, and utilizing industrial blow dryers. As expected, the electricity and water has been shut-off in certain parts of the building while cleaning ensues.

Cunha met with the insurance company this past Wednesday, so a full report on the assessment of the damages will be heard in the coming weeks.

“Losing the wooden gym floor is a significant expense, but I will provide a full report on my meeting with the insurance company at the School Committee’s next meeting on May 28,” announced Cunha.

This unfortunate event is no surprise to school officials. The HVAC system at BHS is 45 years old and continues to have long-standing issues that the School Committee has tried to remedy through the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s (MSBA) funding system, but to no avail. School officials sent the project to the MSBA as its lone statement of interest submission eight straight years, and it was rejected every single year, which is why this year’s submission has changed the district’s focus to building a new elementary school to address capacity issues at the Fox Hill and Pine Glen Elementary Schools.

CBI Consulting, LLC was recently awarded the architectural services bid to becomes the district’s on-call client for prospective projects, such as the need for a new HVAC system at BHS.

“The HVAC system at BHS is not a new topic to anyone,” groused Dr. Conti. “It is old and has a lot of different types of failures. Now, the problems extend further than just the failing boiler, with plumbing failures now taking center stage, which will likely lead to other problems. We are moving forward with [CBI Consulting] on HVAC replacement costs.”

Expect updates on the damage assessment by the district’s insurance company at the committee’s next meeting on May 28.

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