LYNN — Students at Sewell-Anderson Elementary School didn’t get much relief from frigid temperatures earlier this week when boiler issues left some areas of the school without heat on Tuesday and Wednesday.
As school administration officials scrambled to provide a temporary and long-term heating solution, some parents felt school should have been canceled on Wednesday and opted to keep their kids home or dismiss them early.
Some parents posted their concerns on social media with some upset that their kids were being marked absent and others citing a lack of communication from the school district on the heating issue. Parents received a phone call on Tuesday night asking the kids to dress warmly at school the next day.
Deputy Superintendent Kimberlee Powers said school officials had been working diligently on Tuesday and Wednesday to resolve the heating issue when it became apparent.
“We felt, obviously, we were looking to resolve the situation,” Powers said. “By mid-day (Wednesday), we were in a much better place. Today (Thursday), the building is warm.”
Powers said the first floor was coldest at 58 degrees and temperatures got warmer farther up in the building. But the entire building wasn’t only 60 degrees, she said.
Temperatures at Sewell-Anderson ranged from 58 degrees at the front of the building to 66 degrees toward the back of the building and in classrooms higher up, according to School Committee member Brian Castellanos.
According to the Lynn Public Schools “Lack of Heat Policy,” if a temperature of 60 degrees cannot be maintained at the school after a reasonable period of time, school would have to be ordered dismissed by School Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler.
Powers said the problem is with an inadequate boiler system at the school. There are seven boilers at Sewell-Anderson, but only three are functioning. The others need to be replaced.
The boilers heat different parts of the building and the ones struggling the most were connected to the first floor, which was coldest, she said.
Powers said the school administration called the city’s Inspectional Services Department, which brought in space heaters for the first floor and rented a large portable heater that was placed outside the library.
She said the intention of the temporary fix was to blow hot air into the building while HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) contractors worked on the boilers. Contractors will remain on site until the boilers are fully replaced.
By Thursday, Powers said the situation had improved. ISD was at the school at 5 a.m. to check the heating guns so administrators could give notice to parents if they needed to cancel school. Throughout the process, she said there was never any concern about student safety.
But School Committee member Michael Satterwhite said the consensus among parents he spoke to was that school should have been closed on Wednesday.
There was a similar issue at Breed Middle School last year when the school was closed for two days, which kids didn’t have to make up at the end of the year, he said.
“The superintendent acted very quickly on this with the mayor to provide a temporary solution and got approval from ISD to move forward on a long-term fix,” said Satterwhite. “That was not communicated quick enough and some parents felt left in the dark and could not stand bringing or leaving their child in a cold building.”
Michael Donovan, the city’s inspectional services department chief, and Joseph Smart, director of buildings and grounds, did not return phone calls seeking comment.