Faulty gas lines force high school closure

Pauline Alterio, Social Media and Website Manager

  The Bellefonte Area High School was closed to in-person learning November 1 and 2 after reports of gaseous odors led to the discovery of faulty  gas lines within the building. 

The reports were made late in the school day October 31 and prompted the arrival of the Logan and Undine Fire Companies, respectively. Firemen found no signs of gas leaks or dangerous toxins, and later determined that the odors originated from clogged sewer lines beneath the high school, a problem district officials say has happened before. Still, officials decided to shut off the school’s gas supply and conduct a building-wide inspection of utility lines with assistance from gas supplier Columbia Gas. 

Inspectors quickly discovered the existence of faulty gas lines within the roof, of which followed outdated building codes and were not connected in a way deemed safe by today’s construction standards.

Bellefonte’s School Board held an emergency meeting that night in response and voted unanimously to fund maintenance and repairs of the gas lines, a move Columbia Gas says was required to safely return gas to the school. 

Three area maintenance crews moved to the scene soon after and began work. They determined by nightfall on the 31 that a complete replacement of the lines’ connecting parts was needed, but were unable to acquire the necessary parts that day and were forced to wait for later delivery

Given that the school relied upon gas for heat, hot water, and kitchen operation, in-person learning was canceled for November 1, with students and staff shifted to asynchronous, remote instruction.

The parts needed for maintenance arrived late in the afternoon November 1, and crews spent the remainder of the day working on repairs. According to Bellefonte Superintendent Dr. Tammie Burnaford, the crews returned gas to the building in phases and had restored hot water by evening on November 1, but were unable to make the fixes required to power the kitchen in time for school hours on November 2. The high school was subsequently kept on a remote-learning schedule.

The crews successfully completed main-line work in the afternoon of November 2 and restored gas power and heat to the building that night. High school students and staff were allowed access to a regular, in-person school schedule the following day.

In later comments to the public, Dr. Burnaford assured that the repairs had gone smoothly and the district was working with Columbia Gas to ensure future line problems would not arise.