2 Days, 2 Gas Leaks

For the second day in a row, a natural gas leak caused evacuations at Greenback School. This time seven rooms had to be evacuated due to a gas leak at a water heater. The water heater was installed earlier this year. It was a used heater from Eaton Elementary that was moved to Greenback after Eatons had a new one installed. The students involved were moved to another indoor area of the school due to the below freezing weather.

Shortly after the gas leak was repaired, the school wide fire alarm sounded requiring the entire school to be evacuated. All students were moved outdoors with temperatures still well below freezing. It was determined a faulty sensor in the fire alarm system was the cause of the alarm. 

This brings to nine the number of confirmed gas leaks so far this year.  

Natural gas leak forces evacuation at Greenback School

GREENBACK (WATE) -- More than 100 students were evacuated from classrooms at Greenback School in Loudon County Wednesday morning due to a natural gas leak.

The leak came from a water heater, according to Assistant Director of Loudon County Schools Jason Vance.

Several of the classrooms around the water heater were evacuated and the students were sent to the gym. Administrators said about 115 students were affected.

"We found a leak in there at the water heater. Shut if off real quick and evacuated all the kids around the court yard, just in case something happened, just to keep glass from blowing on them if we had an explosion for some reason," Greenback Fire Chief Ronnie Lett said. "But no kids were in danger at any time today in the school."

Crews made repairs.

Wednesday's evacuation is the ninth time this school year that Greenback has been affected by a gas leak.

Greenback Principal Joey Breedlove said he shares parents' concerns. "It's very frustrating. Our students deserve a better experience than this. I can tell you that we have some of the highest scores in the county. When you see this it makes you wonder how, how do they have that when so much instruction is lost time."

Breedlove says it's the county commission that now holds the power to approve the money needed to build a new school.

Until that happens, he says, there will continue to be problems at Greenback.

Breedlove also apologized to parents, saying, "I'm sorry for your frustration. I'm sorry for your fear. I want you to understand that we are taking every precaution possible to make sure your children are safe."

Earlier this week, Loudon County commissioners voted to recommend that the school board  begin phase one of a school construction process.

The schools included in that phase are: Greenback, Fort Loudon Middle and Philadelphia's cafeteria.

In August 2009, Greenback School was closed for a day due to a leaking propane tank that had to be repaired.

In 2007, Greenback was closed for mold and for two days because of a blocked sewer line. Then two weeks, later it was put on fire watch.

In 2008, the school was closed for a day because it had no water and another day because of a gas leak.

The school serves pre-K through 12th grade students. It opened on its present site in 1921.

Greenback principal says gas leak shows need for facility

By Hayes Hickman knoxnews.com

The principal of Greenback School in Loudon County said a second gas leak in as many days Wednesday only underscores the need for a new building to replace the aging schoolhouse.

Approximately 115 students were evacuated from their classrooms to the school’s gym for about an hour Wednesday after the smell of gas was reported around 9:30 a.m.

Greenback firefighters discovered a “very small gas leak,” from a water heater in a nearby courtyard, according to Principal Joey Breedlove.

Students among seven classrooms adjacent to the courtyard were evacuated while the gas was cut off and the leak was repaired.

Mechanics had been called to repair a leak in the same water heater the day before, Breedlove said.

The principal blamed the ongoing problems on a contractor who was previously hired to convert the school from propane to natural gas.

“The county is contracting the services of an independent mechanical engineer to check every pipe, heater and valve in the school for leaks or repair issues,” Breedlove wrote in a letter sent home to parents Wednesday. “Chief (Ronnie) Lett of the Greenback Fire Department has been contracted by the county to check all areas of the school 2-3 times per day for leaks and air quality.

“I want to reassure you that although our facility is not perfect we are doing everything in our power to ensure your child’s safety.”

The school serves some 700 students in grades pre-K through 12. Its oldest section was built in 1939, the principal said.

Breedlove’s letter urged parents to lobby their elected officials to give more priority to building a new school.

“This is the only way to make your voice known and let them know that your support depends on what they will do for our new school,” the letter states.

Loudon County commissioners approved funding for a school building program for several projects Monday night, although it stopped short of committing funds for construction.

Commissioner Bob Franke of Greenback said the project has been a priority for him since he was first elected seven years ago, and that low interest rates and building costs in the current economy make it as good a time as any to move forward.

“Over the years it’s been kind of a bailing wire and bubble gum approach,” Franke said of ongoing safety issues at Greenback School. “We can’t do that anymore — we’ve got to do it right. … I think we’re moving forward now, after many years. I hope we can just continue that.”