Local News

Fair Haven Middle/High School remains closed after a 500-gallon fuel oil leak

Staff report

On Monday, April 1, the Fair Haven Middle/High School closed due to a boiler issue and has remained closed through Wednesday, April 3.

Slate Valley Unified Union School District Superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell has posted daily updates on the districts live feed explaining the situation as it unfolds.

“There was a break in the fuel oil line that supplies fuel to the boilers and upwards of 500 gallons of fuel oil leaked into the utility tunnels under the building and the boiler room,” Olsen-Farrell wrote. “The fuel oil also drained into a sump pump in the boiler room and made its way into the sewer system. We have contracted with a hazardous waste company and reached out to the appropriate state officials. This is an ongoing situation and I will update you as more information is available. The building is closed to all at this time.”

The school has roughly 550 students and 150 faculty and staff — about half of the entire district population — rendering relocation impractical.

Additionally, we still do not have access to the building to get student or staff materials,” Olsen-Farrell noted.

“Remote days are not an option; those went away after the pandemic,” she added, referring to the fact that the state no longer allows districts to count remote days as school days. “A lot of the legal flexibility that was available to schools during Covid no longer exists.”

The state requires 175 days of in-person learning, so depending on the length of closure the school year may need to be extended. Olsen-Farrell, however, hopes the situation qualifies the district for a waiver.

“I am requesting a waiver for the missed days from the Agency of Education,” she said, adding that Slate Valley has a bit of wiggle room as it schedules 180 days of instruction per its own policies and contractual agreements.

A timeline for when the building could be cleared for school to resume remained unknown as of press time, Tuesday, April 2.

“I know this is a difficult situation for all involved. Please be assured we are working as quickly and carefully to address the situation at Fair Haven Union Middle & High School (FHUMHS),” Olsen-Farrell wrote on Tuesday letting district members know that school at FHUMHS would be closed again on Wednesday, April 3. “Right now it is day to day as we need to ensure air quality has returned to the appropriate level throughout the building. Safety is our number one priority.”

For more information visit the district’s website: slatevalleyunified.org and click on the live feed in the left column.

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