FALL RIVER — Students socialized in the hallways and walked to their classes like a regular school day.
Other than the industrial cleaning equipment outside the west entrance and the cordoned-off science wing, Friday felt like a regular school day at B.M.C. Durfee High School.
"The situation isn't ideal, but we're all making it work," said Molly Neubauer, a math teacher at Durfee who was happy to get back to work after two days of the school being closed for cleanup operations.
Around 3 a.m. Wednesday, an old water pipe burst, sending 50,000 gallons of water through the third and fourth floors of the science wing. The water destroyed computers, office equipment, teachers’ personal belongings, ceiling tiles and other items in the classrooms.
After two days of cleaning to prevent mold and subsequent air quality testing, school officials announced on Thursday that the building was safe to reopen for classes on Friday.
Durfee teachers said they and their students had been going "stir-crazy" at home, and wanted to get back to their classroom routines.
"Some students were coming in like, 'Wait, we're doing work today?' I was like, 'Yes, it's still like a regular day,'" said Tory Meneses, a Durfee math teacher who was also happy to get back to classroom instruction.
While no classes were held Thursday at Durfee, Meneses, Neubauer and Chih McDermott, a fellow math teacher, visited Kuss Middle School to observe math instruction there, and to look for ways to smooth the transition for when those students begin high school.
"It was something that we had been talking about as a math department," Neubauer said.
Seeing the initiative the math teachers took to create their own self professional development day impressed Jessica Stephens, the vice principal for Durfee's Class of 2021.
"I know it may sound like a cliche, but we really are a community here, with a genuine sense of concern for one another," said Stephens, who also praised the students for responding well to the inconveniences caused by this week's incident. Some classes and office spaces had to be moved around to other parts of the building, but students, faculty and staff for the most part took it all in stride.
"It just shows you how capable our students are of greatness and how awesome they can be, but also what a community it is here and the responsibility everyone feels for one another, kids and adults alike," Stephens said.
John Gomes, a behavioral specialist at Durfee, said the situation could have been demoralizing for the school community, but said students and faculty have proven themselves to be resilient.
"Everybody has been really positive and willing to help each other out," Gomes said. "I think students feed off that positive energy and you see them all doing the same thing, stepping up and helping their fellow students out."
The teachers also said their students had been asking them on Friday about the prospects of building a new Durfee. The city is in the planning stages of scheduling a vote to spend $260 million for a new Durfee High School. Some students thought the project was already finalized while others were aware that a new Durfee still has to be approved by the voters in a special election.
Until then, Durfee's teachers and students make do with what they have.
"It's frustrating," Neubauer said. "Our kids deserve better."
Email Brian Fraga at firstname.lastname@example.org.