Update: North students to relocate for two weeks


A snow storm closed North Elementary School Monday. It took a snow plow to close the school an extra two weeks.

North Elementary School suffered severe damage on Sunday, Feb. 10 when a plow removing snow from the icy North Elementary parking lot lost control and crashed into the building.

The accident occurred shortly after 8 p.m. Princeton Public Utilities was first notified of the incident at 8:09 p.m. Sunday after the crash tripped a circuit at the PUC’s north substation, said PUC Director Connie Wangen. About 100 homes on the north side of Princeton lost power for about an hour, until 9:03 p.m., she said.

While power was restored to the homes, that wasn’t the case at the school. The plow, operated by a private contractor hired by the school district, hit the southeast corner of the school building where the boiler room is located, said Keith Barlage, building and grounds supervisor for the Princeton School District. All of the utilities going into the building, including water and electric, come through that corner of the building. Because no heat was coming into the building, the district installed portable generators to provide radiant heat around the perimeter of the building to keep the water pipes from bursting, Interim Superintendent Julia Espe said.

The large electrical box that controls power to the school was taken out. Espe said engineers assessing the damage told her the equipment was pushed and twisted by the plow and completely ruined. It will take up to two weeks to get the parts and equipment to totally replace the electrical system, she said.

Construction crews worked late into the night Monday to shore up the building where the damage occurred. On Tuesday, a crew was busy laying brick in order to repair and seal the building, Espe said.

The school was closed Monday, along with other school district buildings, because of the road conditions following approximately seven inches of snow from a winter storm that passed through the region last weekend. On Monday, Espe canceled Tuesday classes at North Elementary.

On Tuesday, the school district announced that North Elementary School experienced the system failure and would be closed for two weeks.

That triggered an emergency plan to relocate the students.

Under the plan, North students reported to the school as usual on Wednesday morning to retrieve their belongings from their lockers. Third graders were then taken to New Life Church, fourth graders to Princeton Middle School and fifth graders to Princeton High School. They will attend classes at those facilities until the repairs to North Elementary are completed, Espe said.

Espe commended the school district administrators, North Elementary School Principal John Beach and his staff for putting together a contingency plan.

“This was an example of good teamwork,” Espe said. “They made this transition a smooth one.”