Water, water ... nowhere

Broken water line forces two schools to do without aqua

Jenkins Middle and James A. Long Elementary schools were without water Tuesday after contractors installing the school district’s fiber-optic lines struck a city of Palatka water line, city officials said. 

Contractors for Southern Light telecommunications were seen working along North 19th Street and Old Jacksonville Road in Palatka Tuesday afternoon, as city crews assessed damage to city water lines. 

“It appears the contractor doing the fiber-optic work for the schools hit the main line,” said Jonathan Griffith, Palatka public works director. 

James A. Long Elementary released students from school early Tuesday, alerting parents of the incident at about 11:30 a.m. School officials said the school lost access to city water at about 11 a.m.

It is the second time the school lost access to city water during the 2015-2016 school year. In March, a damaged hydrant on North 15th Street caused the school be without city water for more than an hour during lunchtime, leading to an early dismissal for students. 

“Generally, you make the call (to allow early release) earlier in elementary school,” James A. Long assistant principal Paula Adams said. “We have 680 kids and about 350 of them are small kids, so bathrooms are very important.”

Jenkins also lost access to city water at about 11 a.m., but officials decided not to release the middle school students early. 

School officials at both schools said bottled water was available to students. But without city water, toilets could not be flushed. 

Adams said James A. Long officials were told the problem would take “a while” to be repaired. 

Griffith said public works crews were still trying to determine the exact cause of the incident just before 2 p.m. Tuesday.