AHS Reopens; Plumbing Issues Still Being Monitored By AHPS

AHS Reopens; Plumbing Issues Still Being Monitored By AHPS
Posted on 03/25/2024

LOW MOOR — Alleghany High School opened on schedule Monday, March 25, after being closed on March 22 because of a recurring plumbing problem that has been technically difficult for maintenance workers to diagnose. 

Because AHS students were excused from attendance on March 22, Jackson River Technical Center and Clifton Academy also were closed Friday. JRTC and Clifton Academy opened on schedule Monday.

Blockages within the school's sewage system have occurred in two separate areas of the line and appear related to debris that has accumulated over time, although it is difficult to determine precisely when, over the long life of the system, the blockages occurred.The school’s sewer lines were initially installed circa 1963.

On Friday, crews from Alleghany Highlands Public Schools maintenance and the City of Covington Public Works worked diligently to find the main cause of the problems and make repairs.  A hydro-jet truck from the Covington Department of Public Works was used to assist the efforts at AHS.

Workers were able clear the most recent blockage on Friday, and the situation was periodically monitored over the weekend through Sunday evening. The decision to reopen was made late Sunday after AHPS leaders and AHS administrators were assured that restrooms at the school were working properly. AHPS maintenance staff will be utilizing a camera system to monitor flows within the line and help identify areas that may be contributing to the plumbing disruptions.

Covington Public Works assisted AHPS when the problem first occurred unexpectedly on March 12. When the plumbing problem occurs, several AHS  toilets do not work properly.

AHPS personnel have been working tirelessly and methodically to investigate and determine the cause of the plumbing disruptions since they first occurred. Drain access points, recently discovered while referring to old building plans for the high school, have provided  better access to a section of the piping when the problem first occurred. Maintenance workers are continuing to work to resolve the ongoing plumbing challenges.

AHPS places a priority on providing students with access to restroom facilities at all times. When this recurring issue has limited access to toilets, schools have been dismissed early or closed as a matter of public safety.  

AHPS is aware of inaccurate reports that indicate the problem is being caused by large items being flushed down toilets in student restrooms. However, despite rumors circulating in the community, maintenance crews have found no evidence of large items within sewage pipes. Additionally, reports that the school has flooded are inaccurate.

“We would caution the community from assuming that the problem has been traced to a single incident that recently occurred. However, this does not mean that AHS students have not flushed inappropriate items down toilets in the recent or distant past,” said Halterman and Snead-Johnson. “We remind our students not to flush items that should not be flushed.”  

Class meetings at AHS today, Monday, March 25, will continue to emphasize these points.  

As an added precaution, AHS staff will  remind students not to  flush wipes, dropped items, and any waste item to minimize the risk of  future difficulties. Such items can remain in pipes for long periods of time and ultimately collect, creating plumbing disruptions.

“The pipes at AHS include terra cotta waste pipes from the original construction of the school in the early 1960s. In the coming months, AHPS maintenance will consider if these pipes should be replaced and how to do so with minimal further disruption to students,” continued Halterman and Snead-Johnson.    

Terra cotta is now known to be easily broken and infiltrated by roots.

“We understand that the overall situation is frustrating and we appreciate the patience and help of all involved,” continued Halterman and Snead-Johnson.  

At this time, AHPS is working on a contingency plan that will help AHS, JRTC, and Clifton Academy provide consistent instruction if the problem recurs. If the schools are closed under similar circumstances, options include providing remote instruction to students at AHS, JRTC and Clifton Academy or making up missed days by extending the school year.


In most cases, the school division  anticipates that if closures are required at AHS, JRTC,  and Clifton Academy, Covington Middle School will likely be able to operate by using a plan developed to keep bus routes running. Because athletic and activities events are often held off site in the Spring, these activities may be able to proceed for AHS students as well. 

“We appreciate that preparation for possible remote instruction requires planning on behalf of both our staff and our families and understand this plan is not ideal,” said Halterman and Snead-Johnson. “We also know our staff and students are resilient, and we are thankful for their hard work.”  

With approximately 2,700 students, AHPS was created when Alleghany County Public Schools, Covington City Public Schools, and Jackson River Technical Center merged in July 2022. The school division is jointly funded by Alleghany County and the City of Covington.

AHPS news and events are regularly updated on Facebook at AHPublicSchools and Instagram at ahpublicschools. Information is also available at www.ahps.k12.va.us.
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