District: Water leak found at Bowie High School fixed, new water isolation valves installed in some facilities

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Water is running again at Bowie High School after several days of leaks, the Austin Independent School District said Wednesday.

A water leak gushing 26,000 gallons per hour was fixed Monday at Bowie High School, but another leak was found Tuesday.

The latest leak caused officials to shut down bathrooms in the main building for the second consecutive day at the southwest Austin high school, and AISD said via Twitter classes will continue as normal, but if students needed to stay home because of it, it would be an excused absence.

On Wednesday, the district said it had fixed the leaks.

“Bathrooms in the athletics area are open to students, and we’ll have 17 portable restrooms on-site like we did yesterday,” a tweet from AISD said. “Restrooms at the tennis courts and administration building are available to staff.”

AISD said bottled water is available in classrooms, the main office and cafeteria. Lunch will be served as normal since the kitchen isn’t affected by the leak.

AISD said it thinks the leaks were caused by February’s winter storms.

“We’re only seeing this now, because after fixing the water pressure issue, sections of pipe that were damaged in the storm are now failing,” AISD said. “We’re working hard to fix this. And thank you for your patience.”

Some students said conditions in the campus were too bad to stay at school on Tuesday.

“I went to the bathroom, there was no way to flush the toilets. It smelled horrible,” said student Bart Urrabazo said.

Urrabazo and Claudia McCabe decided to leave school, questioning why this is happening again.

“Focus more on the restrooms being fixed than the new athletic facility that was just built,” Claudia said.

  • A second water leak at Bowie High School was discovered Tuesday, and bathrooms in the main building are shut down for the second day in a row as a result of it. (Contributed photo)
  • A second water leak at Bowie High School was discovered Tuesday, and bathrooms in the main building are shut down for the second day in a row as a result of it. (Contributed photo)
  • A large water leak reported at Bowie High School is causing the school to lose 26,000 gallons an hour, Austin ISD said. (Contributed photo)
  • A second water leak at Bowie High School was discovered Tuesday, and bathrooms in the main building are shut down for the second day in a row as a result of it. (Contributed photo)
  • A large water leak reported at Bowie High School is causing the school to lose 26,000 gallons an hour, Austin ISD said. (Contributed photo)
  • A large water leak reported at Bowie High School is causing the school to lose 26,000 gallons an hour, Austin ISD said. (Contributed photo)

Voters approved $196 million worth of projects in a 2017 bond election for what AISD labeled as “critical facility deficiencies” at elementary, middle and high schools in that bond.

HVAC and plumbing improvements at Bowie were included. And according to AISD’s website, those items are 95% complete.

The district wouldn’t answer specific questions about them. Instead, it provided KXAN with a pre-taped explanation and video of what’s happening at Bowie.

“The piping here beneath Bowie High School — it’s original, from 1986,” Matias Segura, chief of operations with AISD, said. “What we’ve been trying to do is increase water pressure on… and as we’ve begun to increase it, we’re seeing failures occur.”

Meanwhile, AISD excused on-campus absences but said this didn’t warrant a complete campus shutdown.

“We’re not even out of the pandemic yet, however, we had a lot of lost time for school during the time we were out,” Executive Director of High Schools Sheila L. Henry said. “If we reach a point where we need to not be at school, then we’ll make that call.”

Students just don’t want another day of uncertainty about basic needs while at school.

“It’s gross, yeah,” Urrabazo said.

One teacher KXAN talked to on Monday called it “an ongoing issue” and vented frustration saying the school “just does not feel like a safe place right now.”

 You can find a full list of bond projects for campuses, with the status of projects here. These projects were originally set to take anywhere from one to 25 years.

District officials said that it was working to determine and address water pressure and hot water issues throughout Bowie.

The district said it installed water isolation valves in “new facilities,” such as the parking garage, athletics and fine arts areas.

“We’re going to stay focused on trying to prevent issues like this in the future, but when they do happen, we’ll move quickly to address it like we did tonight,” the district said.

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