Cape Elizabeth gym floor flooded; Election Day polls move to cafeteria

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The high school gymnasium floor is being replaced after it was damaged when a student kicked a soccer ball Monday into a ceiling-mounted fire sprinkler.

The resulting water damage – which was a “100 percent accident,” according to Facilities Director Greg Marles – will require replacement of the floor, which is only 2 years old, and will cost $150,000, plus up to $30,000 for cleanup.

He said the costs will be covered by insurance, and the new floor is expected to be installed by Dec. 5.

In the meantime, Election Day voting, which traditionally is conducted in the gym, will take place in the school cafeteria Nov. 8.

Marles said gym classes won’t be too inconvenienced, because a swimming unit usually scheduled later in the year can be moved up.

The sprinkler head, which is on the ceiling 21 feet above the gym floor, released 800-1,000 gallons of water, he said. 

“It was a one-in-a-million shot,” Marles said.

The soccer ball broke the protective cage around the sprinkler as well as the sprinkler itself. Marles said the responsible student is not being punished.

He said facilities workers quickly shut off the water Monday, and custodians, a maintenance crew, and the assistant principal cleaned water off the floor.

The quick cleanup, however, didn’t stop the water from penetrating the base layers of the floor.

“It was a total loss,” Marles said.

The floor of the gym, which had a surface of maple harvested from sustainable forests and a substructure of recycled plastic, was installed in August 2014 by Connor Sports Flooring. It was needed because the previous floor was also damaged by water when a piece of equipment froze and pipes burst. Several hundred gallons of water spilled on the old gym floor.

Marles said the new floor was supposed to be water resistant, but couldn’t hold up to the large quantity of water spilled.

“It’s a top-of-the-line floor, but 1,000 gallons of water and hardwood just don’t go together,” he said. “It’s unfortunate because we spent a lot of time putting that in.”

The floor is being replaced with the same material, and Connor Sports Flooring began work on Tuesday.

The difference this time, Marles said, is that the school will also replace all 100 sprinkler cages in the gym with specially designed enclosures that are more resistant to damage.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

The Cape Elizabeth High School gym floor, shown during installation in August 2014, is being replaced again because of water damage it sustained when a student accidentally kicked a soccer ball into a sprinkler head.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.