GETTING RESULTS: New Rochelle Schools Admit Heating Fail at Middle School, Service Company Makes Repairs

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GETTING RESULTS: New Rochelle Schools Admit Heating Fail at Middle School, Service Company Makes Repairs

March 20, 2015 - 18:24
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NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- After several days of denials by school officials, the City School District of New Rochelle was forced to admit Thursday to problems with the heating system at Albert Leonard Middle School after Talk of the Sound alerted the New York State Education Department of the frigid conditions in many of the classrooms.

On Monday and Tuesday there was no perimeter heat throughout the entire building but with temperatures reaching about 50ºF the lack of heat was not noticeable until temperatures dropped sharply going into Wednesday when overnight temperatures dropped below freezing and remained there all morning. Heating elements on the roof of the school were able to supply some heat to about 30% of the classrooms.

A robo-call was sent to parents Thursday afternoon:

Good afternoon we want you to be aware of heating issues at our school today. Please be assured that they are being address as quickly as possible by school officials and the New York State Department of Education’s Director of Buildings and Grounds. We expect schools will be in session tomorrow and classes to follow a normal schedule. Thank you for your understanding and patience if you have any questions please feel free to call our building administration at 914-576-4339.

The call is misleading in several ways. The message begins “we want you to be aware of heating issues at our school today”; the heating issues have existed all week. The message continues “they are being address as quickly as possible”; the issues began over the weekend and efforts to address the problem began Friday morning. “and the New York State Department of Education’s Director of Buildings and Grounds”; the district was caught by NYSED lying about the heating situation yet wants to make it sound as if the district called NYSED.

Talk of the Sound spoke this morning with Carl Thurnau, Director of Buildings & Grounds for New York State Education Department about the situation at Albert Leonard Middle School. Thurnau is responsible for over 4,000 school buildings in New York State. Yesterday was his first visit to New Rochelle.

Thurnau was in New Rochelle to inspect Trinity Elementary School and meet with school officials having received complaints from parents about heating and roofing issues at the school. After an ALMS parent (me) called Thurnau’s office on Thursday to make them aware of the situation at Albert Leonard Middle School, he made a visit to Albert Leonard.

Thurnau explained that there are two heating systems at Albert Leonard Middle School: the primary heating system is a radiator heating system fed by hot water from two boilers at the school and a secondary system which provides cold or hot air through duct work and vents. The boiler system provides “perimeter heating”. The system was completely disabled over the weekend and remains disabled now. The rooftop ventilation system is compromised of 90 rooftop units many of which were not functioning either.

Thurnau said that after the second boiler failed over there weekend, with the loss of all perimeter heat, the problems with many of the rooftop units became apparent. Thurnau said he did not understand why complaints about the failing rooftop ventilation units was only made this week.

Workers from Westrock Mechanical were on scene at Albert Leonard Middle School this morning. They were observed on the roof where they are making repairs to the rooftop ventilation system units.

The boilers in Albert Leonard Middle School are what is known as “water tube” boilers manufactured by Cleaver-Brooks. They are not able to hold pressure because some of the tubes are leaking. Without opening up the boiler to look inside, there is no way to know if 2 of the 100 tubes are leaking and the rest area fine or whether all the rest of the tubes are close to breaking.

After visiting Albert Leonard Middle School, Thurnau said he met with Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne, Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration Jeff White and Buildings & Grounds Director Arturo Riviera of Aramark.

Thurnau said he did not believe the boilers were beyond repair but he told school officials to bring in technicians from Cleaver-Brooks to evaluate whether the boilers were worth repairing or would need to be replaced.

Thurnau said he was told that one boiler failed in the fall and the failed recently. Informed that one of the boilers failed over a year ago, on March 16, 2014, Thurnau stated that either way it was “definitely inappropriate” to go into heating season with just one functioning boiler.

Thurnau visited several classrooms and could tell immediately that rooms were not running at 65 degrees as required under New York State law. He said he did not have a thermostat with him but there were thermometers in some of the classrooms and he observed readings of 57 and 58 degrees. Talk of the Sound received similiar reports from teachers who asked not to be identified. In some classrooms temperatures were even colder, with the lowest recorded temperature at 51 degrees in one classroom.

“It’s clearly unacceptable,” said Thurnau. “If it continues, alternative arrangements will need to be made such as moving students out of cold classrooms."

For now, Thurnau said the district was focused now on rooftop units and hoped they would be repaired by noon today.

Thurnau said he toured a significant number of buildings and found them to generally be in good shape although he noted there were problems with roofs and boilers throughout the district.