Schools scramble to turn on the heat

By: By Scott Bigelow - Staff writer

LUMBERTON Maintenance workers for the Public Schools of Robeson County are working overtime to get heat to an unknown number of schools and the students who attend them.

Social media was abuzz on Tuesday night and all day Wednesday with parents upset because their children were in schools without heat, and there were also complaints about lack of information coming from the system.

Despite proactive measures taken in the days before students returned on Tuesday from Christmas vacation, the PSRC Maintenance Department received 53 calls about heating problems, although some concerned the same schools. Affected schools were Red Springs High School, Lumberton Senior High School, Littlefield Middle School and at least two others, according to unofficial reports.

According to school system administrators, a list of schools lacking heat has not been compiled. No repair schedule was released, but work went on until 9 p.m. Tuesday. There are 42 public schools in Robeson County.

Unofficial reports indicate no school was totally without heat. A PSRC spokesperson said no students were sent home, and she said she would be surprised if students weren’t relocated to heated sections of a school.

But some people complained on social media and in phone calls to The Robesonian that students sat in cold classrooms. Temperatures this week have not gotten out of the 3os during the daytime and have plummeted into the teens overnight.

School was delayed two hours on Tuesday, and recessed early on Wednesday. No information was available on school times for today when this newspaper was published.

A caller who asked not to be identified said students at Red Springs High School remained in cold classrooms and were not moved. She said her calls to the schools and the central office went unanswered.

“Wouldn’t you take the students to where it was warm?” the caller said. “They need to fix it, move the students or cancel school.

“They need to answer parents calls, too,” the caller said.

Administrators at the PSRC’s central office could not say how the individual schools responded to the lack of heat. A school-by-school update about ongoing repairs was unavailable Wednesday afternoon.

A written PSRC statement reads, “The calls could have referred to the number of classrooms with a heating problem, issues with heating systems or a boiler down at a school. The maintenance staff worked until 9 p.m. on Tuesday working on the repairs. The maintenance teams continued to work on the heat calls on Wednesday.

“The majority of the reports are in the process of being repaired. The Maintenance Department prioritized the calls, making the youngest children as a priority, unless it is a boiler. A school boiler is automatically a priority.

“Dr. Shanita Wooten instructed each school administrator last week to make sure all heat was turned on to make sure it would run night and day until the subfreezing temperature is gone, but in some areas with these extremely low temperatures problems can and will still occur.

“The Maintenance Department plans to continue working the calls until everything is back on line. If there are major parts that have to be ordered for replacement, maintenance will put out temporary heaters until the parts are replaced.

“It is a major logistical operation for our staff considering our 42 schools are countywide and we have a limited staff who specialized in heating and air. For example, some of the field houses, the water lines burst in the top of the building, so we had to be in the process of shutting those lines down.”

By Scott Bigelow

Staff writer

Staff writer Scott Bigelow may be reached at 910-644-4497 or by email at [email protected]

Staff writer Scott Bigelow may be reached at 910-644-4497 or by email at [email protected]