UPDATE: Large wad of grease pulled from Polk County cafeteria plumbing system
A collapsed pipe was spotted during inspections and should be repaired soon.
UPDATE: Acting Polk County Schools Superintendent Joel Cox tells Channel 3 that the plumbing company pulled a large wad of grease out of the pipes at the school's cafeteria. The plumbing problem closed the facility Tuesday, produced a ripple-effect with student buses.
The removal of the grease wad appeared to solve the problem Wednesday afternoon.
Plumbers are using cameras to map the pipes and spot any other potential problems. A collapsed pipe was spotted and should be repaired soon.
PREVIOUS STORY: Interim Superintendent Joe Cox says that sack lunches will be prepared at Polk County High on Wednesday and transported to Benton Elementary and Chilhowee Middle for lunch.
This solution has been approved by the health inspector and state school food service officials. Superintendent Cox says contractors will work on the plumbing problem today.
PREVIOUS STORY: Polk County students got the afternoon off Tuesday because of cafeteria problems.
School officials dismissed Benton Elementary, Chilhowee Middle, Polk County High and South Polk Elementary at noon. Central office is saying it's all because of a plumbing problem that prevented staff from serving lunch.
"We've had some problems with our water here in the cafeteria, with that actually seeping up through the floors and in the sink," said Secondary Supervisor Jason Bell, Polk County Schools.
Jason Bell says the decision to dismiss early came down to safety. Bell says it's just not sanitary to serve lunch with dirty water bubbling up in the cafeteria's sinks.
"It's aggravating, I understand that it's aggravating for parents," said Bell. "I know the teachers have things planned out and this disrupts their schedule. It's not something we enjoy doing by any means."
Benton Elementary and Chilhowee Middle both share the cafeteria with problems but the early dismissal impacted approximately 1,700 students.
"The west side of the county is all on the same bus route, so it's just too difficult to coordinate those bus routes to where you pick up at one school and go back to another," said Bell.
While students missed out on today's menu of pizza, rolls and vegetables, many said they don't mind an afternoon off.
"It's cool, I don't really like their food but I eat it anyways," said 8-year-old Logan.
"It's great, I'm glad I'm out of school now," said one student.
Officials say the school is working with a heath inspector on a long-term fix to replace the pipes, but first two crews will work overnight to clear the impacted pipes. The principal says he plans to have the lunch line open by Wednesday's lunch hour.
"Do your homework kids, be ready when you come back tomorrow and have your assignments ready," said Bell.
School officials say they do have a plan if the short-term fix does not work. Bell says they'll bring over sack lunches if they have to and take it one day at a time. Right now the cost of a long-term fix is unknown, it all depends on what the experts find during their evaluation.
PREVIOUS STORY: Polk County Schools will dismiss its Benton Area and South Polk County campuses at noon on Tuesday due to mechanical issues in the school cafeterias.
The dismissal will include Benton Elementary, Chilhowee Middle, Polk County High and South Polk Elementary Schools.
Parents are asked to pick up their students at noon.
The dismissal comes after what central office calls a “mechanical problem” in two of the school cafeterias that has left cafeteria staff unable to provide lunch to students.