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Flooding at The Cove School

It's fantastic that the Cove School was built, providing our community with a premier new elementary school in east Corte Madera and relieving crowding at Neil Cummins.

What's not fantastic is that by three months after its opening in the fall of 2015, the Cove School had already flooded at least twice—once in December of 2015, and once while still under construction.

Extensive flooding in the gymnasium of the Cove School, still under construction, on March 29, 2014.

The December 2015 flood was a rightful public outrage, with parents, local officials, and taxpayers alike asking how a brand-new school could have been built in Mariner Cove—a neighborhood known to suffer from flooding during adverse weather and tidal confluences—without taking the danger of flooding into account. Then-Town Manager David Bracken described the debacle as betraying, "A lack of recognition of how the real world works in Mariner Cove.”

What many people don't know is that the Cove School also flooded in March of 2014, while it was still under construction. I saw this with my own eyes on a tour of the construction site, when the school buildings had already been framed, but before much of the drywall and finishes had been installed.

What I saw shocked me: concrete floor slabs completely covered in giant puddles that reflected the exposed rafters above. I saw heaps of lumber sitting on the ground, covered in plastic sheets but wet from the mud below.

While at this point in construction it was already too late to properly account for flooding in the school's design, severe interior flooding at the construction site would have presumably served as a red flag that modifications needed to be made before the school's opening. But the flooding in December of 2015, just months after opening, suggest that this such modifications never occurred.

Without knowing all the facts, I don't want to assign blame to any particular party, but it's clear that the story of flooding at the Cove School is one of egregious failure in terms of due diligence on a project of great public expense and import.

The check valves and pump station installed across the street on Golden Hind will certainly help prevent future flooding, but they don't excuse the lack of foresight that resulted in this taxpayer-funded debacle.

Moving forward, we must have two priorities: taking all measures necessary to ensure there is no toxic mold caused by either flood at the Cove School, and making right sure that all new construction in Corte Madera—especially publicly financed projects—is designed to protect against flooding. Common sense demands it.

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