Federal Way schools weather the rain and leaky roofs

Lakota Middle School was built with solar panels on the roof, as seen in this file photo from 2010.  - Courtesy photo
Lakota Middle School was built with solar panels on the roof, as seen in this file photo from 2010.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

As winter settles in, Puget Sound’s rain-filled days have come back in a big way, with rain totals higher than average for the months of October, November and, to this point, December.

According to Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) facility services director Rod Leland, most of the city’s schools have survived the soaking so far with minimal issues.

“In October, we had 5.77 inches of rain at SeaTac, that’s 2.36 more inches than our average. In November, we had 9.71 inches of rain. That’s 3.33 inches more than our norm. And so far this month, we’ve had 2.08 inches of rain, and that’s over a quarter of an inch more than our norm for this point in December,” Leland said.

“Of our 22 reports we had, some of our schools had more water than they could deal with. Honestly, we don’t design to withstand that on a regular basis. But 17 inches in two months has overwhelmed some of our systems.”

Leland said most of the issues encountered by Federal Way schools dealt with standing water on the grounds or roofs of the buildings. Federal Way High School (FWHS), already notorious for its leaky roof, comprised four calls during the rainy days, he said. The other schools where some issues were reported included Nautilus Elementary, Thomas Jefferson High School, Brigadoon Elementary, Rainier View Elementary, Totem Middle School, Woodmont K-8, Decatur High School, Kilo Middle School, Sacajawea Middle School, Lake Grove Elementary, Olympic View Elementary and Lakota Middle School.

Lakota had a mystery of a problem for a little while.

“It did cause us to go and scratch our heads and say, ‘It’s a metal roof, it has no seams, how can that be?’” Leland said. “We found there is one…of 20 stacks that provide exhaust for the furnaces we have there. One of them does not have a top hat on it, and that was enough rain…that it came back through the duct work and leaked, unfortunately, in the principal’s office. It did that twice in those two days of overwhelming rain.”

Board member Danny Peterson visited Valhalla Elementary the day after one of the major rainstorms, and found the school to be in bad shape, even though it’s a newer building.

“Valhalla had some leaks in their gym. They had a couple of ceiling tiles come down, and had towels in the hallway…Obviously that’s a newer school, and for me, that’s a huge fail if that’s the roof design there,” Peterson said. “I want to make sure, moving forward with Federal Way High School, we’ve just been approved a lot of money and the community is trusting us to put together a good design…I don’t buy into ‘leaks happen.’ I think if you pay someone to do a job, they should do it right. Obviously, if you have a leak in your house, you get it fixed right away, and for me, this was a concern.”

Leland said the district has more than 3 million square feet of roofs between all the schools. “Just perspective,” he said.


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