Helena students won’t go back Tuesday

After sewage flooded Helena Intermediate School last week, students won’t return to school Tuesday as was originally planned.

School officials need to get the results of environmental tests back before they can safely allow students into the building, said Assistant Superintendent of Operations Tom Ferguson.

An initial test done in the cafeteria on Thursday came back positive for bacteria. The cafeteria was cleaned again Friday and Saturday, but labs were closed over the weekend so testing couldn’t be done again until Monday.

Shelby County School spokesperson Cindy Warner said tests take 24 hours to complete, so the results of the second test will not be known until Tuesday.

Ferguson said the delay shows how important safety is to school officials.

“Our main priority is always student health and safety,” he said. “The building looks great. Carpets have been replaced and everything has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. We are hopeful that these tests will be back and we will be able to return to normal on Wednesday.”

Warner said the clean-up will cost more than $150,000. The school system has filed a claim with the Risk Management Division at the Alabama Department of Finance.

It’s likely students will have to make up the missed class days, but the school system hasn’t determined how the days will be made up, Warner said.

Helena Intermediate, which opened in 2001, has dealt with this kind of situation before. The school experienced slight sewage flooding several years ago, but not to this extent.

This time, sewage flooded 60,000 square feet out of the school’s total 160,000 when a city pumping station located next to the school shut down the night of Oct. 7, causing sewage to back up in the school’s drains and pipes.