Union Elementary School closed after weekend power surge fries HVAC, fire alarms and more

BUCKHANNON – Students at Union Elementary School will have an extra two days off because of electrical issues that plagued the school over the weekend.

Upshur County Schools Facilities Director Tim Derico said Union Elementary was closed for students on Monday, although staff did report. The school will also be closed on Tuesday, March 19 while repairs are completed.

“Saturday night there was some sort of an electrical fault in the area past Union Elementary on Route 33,” Derico explained Monday afternoon. “I don’t know the details particularly of that, however we do know Union Elementary School lost power at that point and the transformer directly adjacent to the building was damaged.”

Derico said Mon Power shut down power Saturday evening to approximately 1,000 customers to make repairs.

“The electric was back on about 11 p.m. Saturday evening,” Derico told My Buckhannon. “When the power came back up, we still had a leg of the three-phase power that was not working. They found out on Sunday that it was a transformer. It created some sort of a surge in our building and we have damage to everything from HVAC units to our fire alarm system and walk-in coolers. The surge that went through the building fried some of our iPad chargers and damaged a lot of our equipment.”

Derico said there is currently no heat at Union Elementary School and they are trying to fix the system.

“The HVAC is the big issue with the cooler temperatures this week,” Derico said. “The whole school was without heat.”

He said the staff reported so they could assess damage to equipment in each of their rooms.

“Our maintenance guys have been out there working all day,” Derico said. “In one classroom, they replaced 10 ballasts and lights with damage. That was just one classroom. I don’t know scattered throughout the school how many lights they had to repair. But it has been a big issue for us today and was throughout the weekend.”

As of now, there is no financial estimate on the total damage.

“We haven’t crossed that bridge yet,” Derico said. “I heard from the HVAC guy a little bit ago. One of the units was completely fried. It is going to take several thousands of dollars to repair.”

Although some of the repairs could be covered by insurance, Derico said his first step is to check with Mon Power.

“Obviously, we want to explore all of our options as far as filing a claim with the power company as well,” he said. “I don’t know what that protocol is, but obviously if it were to happen at my home, something on their end faulted enough that it caused us a great amount of damage.”

Derico said he is hopeful that repairs will be completed and that students will be back in the classes soon, but right now they’re just trying to assess the full amount of damage.

“As they work, they continue to find things to repair,” he said.

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