Custodians are working to keep Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School adequately heated after a problem with one of the school’s boilers.
Dr. Nicholas Fischer, superintendent of the New London Public Schools, said one boiler shut down overnight before the start of the school day on Thursday. The school’s second boiler was under repair at the time of the issue and not functional. Fischer said at Thursday’s Board of Education meeting that the boiler was brought back online and custodians are working in alternating shifts to monitor it before this today’s school day begins.
BDJMS students will continue to attend the school today, but some classes may be relocated due to low temperatures in some areas of the building. Fischer said the Ledge Light Health District was also brought to the building to assess whether the temperatures were safe. He said four or five classrooms were not used because their temperatures were below 65 degrees.
“We were very fortunate that the third and forth floors of the building largely held onto their heat, so we were able to maintain a good part of our programs,” said Fischer. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you there weren’t rooms that were cold. There were.”
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Fischer said the district considered moving students to the Jennings School or New London High School on Thursday. However, he said enough heat was restored to continue classes within Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School.
An item for the repair of boilers recently appeared before the City Council. In a memo to the council on Nov. 19, Fischer requested that the council approve $43,850 for the repair of the boilers per the recommendation of the School Building and Maintenance Committee. The request first appeared at the Dec. 3 council meeting and was approved earlier this month.
“We need to invest in preventative maintenance to prevent these problems in the future,” said Fischer.
The situation brought some complaints from parents attending the meeting. Kathy Skrabacz thanked the district for keeping parents informed about the situation during the day. However, she said the district and council need to work together more closely to address problems faster.
“We have talked about this for a long time, and there is a plan, but it seems to me that it is more of a Band-Aid plan,” she said.
Mongi Dhaouadi said the schools should be better prepared for such unexpected events, saying there were conflicting plans to relocate to other buildings or fix the boiler and keep the students at the middle school. He said he considered Thursday's situation to be unacceptable due to the recent concerns with the boiler.
“The problem is we knew what was wrong with Bennie Dover. We knew the boilers were not working,” said Dhaouadi.
President Margaret Curtin agreed that swifter action is needed to address such issues.
“We’ve got to start moving a little faster in this city, that’s all,” she said.