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Cold school building greets New London middle schoolers

By Julianne Hanckel

Publication: theday.com

Published January 24. 2013 8:00PM   Updated January 24. 2013 11:51PM

New London — A boiler at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School stopped working overnight Wednesday, and students arrived to a cold school building Thursday morning.

The school has two boilers, but one has not been working for some time, Superintendent of Schools Nicholas A. Fischer said Thursday evening at the Board of Education meeting.

The school was able to get the boiler working again late Thursday morning, he said, but some rooms on the lower levels of the school were still deemed too cold for occupancy when representatives from Ledge Light Health District responded Thursday morning to make sure that temperatures in the classrooms were appropriate for students — 65 degrees, according to Bennie Dover Jackson Principal Alison Ryan.

Classrooms deemed too cold were not used for the day.

Students were moved to the third and fourth floors of the school, where the heat was set at 70 degrees, despite prior notice to parents through the school's emergency notification system that their children would be taken by bus to Jennings Elementary School or the high school for the rest of the school day.

"Thankfully, the third and fourth floors of the building held on to the heat and we were able to maintain a good part of our programs there," Fischer said.

The temperature in New London dipped into the single digits Wednesday morning and rose to a high of 21 degrees in the early afternoon.

Mongi Dhaouadi, a member of the middle school's governance council, said during the meeting that while he doesn't have a student at the school, the situation was "disturbing."

"We knew this problem was coming, and we allowed it to happen. The issue probably rests more with the city than the school, but it's not acceptable to me, and I doubt that there was also a plan in place for the evacuation of the students," he said.

"It's a breakdown in leadership at every level, from the city to the school to the parents," Dhaouadi said.

Fischer said the district's custodial staff was scheduled to work in rotating shifts overnight Thursday to make sure the boiler remained functioning for school this morning, but that the boilers need to be repaired.

"I think it suggests a long-term financial issue that we as a city and a community have to look at. We need to invest in long-term projects," Fischer said. "We will not allow children to go into any parts of the building that do not have sufficient temperatures."

Board Chairwoman Margaret "Peg" Curtin said she knew the boilers had been an "ongoing problem."

"The (City) Council is aware of it, and we've got to start moving faster in this city, that's all," she said.

j.hanckel@theday.com

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