Students in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, are returning to class with the help of neighboring schools after a pipe burst and released asbestos at an elementary school.
"We really had to build two schools from the bottom up," said Fitchburg Public Schools Superintendent Andre Ravenelle.
About 650 elementary school students in Fitchburg are getting back to school this week in classrooms that didn’t exist a week ago.
A burst pipe at Crocker Elementary School on Christmas Day left behind water damage and exposed asbestos, making the school temporarily uninhabitable.
"We couldn’t access the building, normally you would move the furniture and move the teacher’s materials, but we couldn’t do any of that," said Ravenelle.
School officials say the asbestos removal at Crocker Elementary School and the repairs to several damaged classrooms could take as long as six weeks.
"So I put out an APB to all of my fellow superintendents in communities and the materials just started pouring in," said Ravenelle.
Chairs from Gardner and Leominster, tables from Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School and even the use of former classrooms at the Passios School in Lunenburg and St. Anthony’s in Fitchburg were offered.
"When a town or a city’s in trouble, you do turn to your neighbors oftentimes and you turn to people who’ve demonstrated a commitment and a friendship because they know it’s a collateral relationship," said Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale.
Some parents and students were a bit apprehensive about going to a different building at first.
"I had to walk her in the first day but she seems to really like the building," said parent Katie Leblanc.
But they say so far the temporary transition has gone pretty smoothly.
"I think the school district has done an amazing job, you figure they pulled this together in less than a week," said grandparent Angelo Kirousis.
But it didn’t help that in the midst of all this, a sprinkler burst at Longsjo Middle School this past weekend.
"So that school’s been closed for two days and they’ll be re-opening tomorrow," said Ravenelle.
Needless to say, the Fitchburg School District is looking forward to warmer weather.