John F. Kennedy High School students got the day off on Thursday because of heating problems at their school building. School officials have not yet decided whether the school will open on Friday.
District spokesperson Terry Corallo said there has been progress in getting the heat restored at the building. She said heat is back on in the school’s gymnasium where there is a basketball game scheduled for tonight. She said the game will go on as scheduled.
Corallo said the district is hoping to open the school for staff and 2,200 students in four academies tomorrow, but a final decision will not be made until later today.
Steve Morlino, facilities director, said the heating problem arises from frozen steam heating system coils at the building that prevented classrooms from heating properly. “Bunch of coils froze and in some cases burst and in other cases simply froze solid,” said Morlino.
Morlino told school board members on Wednesday evening that he has been working on resolving the issue. He said one of his employees was stationed at the school building overnight to monitor the situation.
Morlino reported that heat was partially functioning at the school last night. He said some classrooms were at 80 degrees while others were still cold at 60 degrees. Not enough progress was made to allow students in the building on Thursday morning forcing district officials to close the school for staff and students.
School officials had to postpone the district’s annual Black History Month event and relocate the regular school board meeting which is held inside the school’s auditorium to the district’s central office due to the heating problem on Wednesday evening.
Students and staff members will have to make up the missed day, said Corallo. She said a date has not been selected yet.
Morlino blamed cold temperature and aging school infrastructure for the problem.
“We had a number of challenges in the district over the past few days with temperature extremes,” said Morlino. He said buildings in New Jersey are designed to withstand zero-degree outside temperatures; however, when wind chill and all are added together for the past few days the mercury has been well below zero.
“The boiler plants are built to work at zero at its maximum capacity. Once you drop below zero or you have wind chills that impact the building such as we’ve had in the recent days you really tax the system,” explained Morlino.
Morlino said that zero-degree threshold is for new buildings. He said 50-60 year old buildings – where maintenance has been differed for years — fare worse in extremely cold temperatures.
Morlino said School 10 also had a coil issue. “A coil broke in room 106 on the first floor and flooded the media center below it,” said Morlino. “The media center suffered extensive damage as a result of that flood.”
School 24 also had similar issues with coils freezing, said Morlino. In Silk City Academy steam pipes had to be repaired over the last two weeks.
“A lot of this stuff can be prevented through proper maintenance going forward,” said Morlino.
Heat is improving at the Preakness Avenue high school, said Corallo. She said there’s a major focus on the building today to get the heat fully restored.