Cold forces school to shuffle classes


Tommy Finland uses a handheld torch on one of the pipes at Northside Elementary School, Tuesday. Maintenance crews used the torches to unfreeze pipes frozen because of this week's frigid temperatures.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Seven classes at Northside Elementary School had to be relocated to other areas of the school Tuesday because of cold temperatures — a situation that Superintendent Larry Cartner said points to the inadequacy of the school’s heating system for newer areas of the school.

The Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools operated on a two-hour delay Tuesday because of the extreme cold.

Cartner reported there were “some spotted outages for heat” in schools Tuesday but added “there were no ‘whole school’ heat failures.”

Cartner explained that “students were moved to warm classrooms” in the schools affected by the heat outages.

Seven classes at Northside Elementary School were relocated, as was one class at Sheep-Harney Elementary School.

According to Cartner, this week’s unusually cold temperatures highlight a problem with the heating system at Northside.

“Three different people checked Northside yesterday and all was normal,” Cartner said. “The heat at Northside Elementary School has been set to run all night since mid-December. The heating system for the building is simply not large enough to heat the additions that have been made over the years.”

Cartner said the need to address the school’s heating system will be a budget discussion item this year.

Frozen pipes, one of the true scourges that accompany extremely cold weather, also struck at some schools.

“Despite heating systems running overnight, there were still a few frozen pipes,” Cartner said. 

Cartner said staff checked all schools Sunday afternoon and everything was in good working order at that time.

As of Tuesday afternoon maintenance staff were still trying to thaw some pipes at Northside.

The frozen pipes did not affect food service; nor did they prevent students from using any restrooms.

“There are some burst pipes at various locations,” Cartner said. “Some are related to heat and some are not.”

Cartner noted the bus batteries had been checked on Friday in anticipation of this week’s bitter cold.

“Buses were cranked on Friday and the temperatures were so cold over the weekend that some batteries drained anyway,” Cartner said. “This morning there were eight buses with dead batteries. The other dead batteries were found and replaced on Friday. ... There were two buses late due to battery issues.”

ECPPS had five buses with frozen airlines, four of which ended up running late.

“All of our buses have been equipped with airline dryers, but condensation still builds up as the air drops,” Cartner said. “One of those buses still has a frozen airline and a spare is running in its place.”

The only other school district in the area to hold classes Tuesday was Perquimans County, and district Superintendent Matthew F. Cheeseman said Perquimans had very few problems.

“We’ve had a very productive day.” Cheeseman said Tuesday.

The maintenance staff turned up the heat to all school buildings on Thursday of last week to ensure the buildings would be ready for students’ return on Tuesday, he said.

There were three classrooms districtwide that were “a little chilly” when students arrived — Cheeseman said his understanding is they were slightly below the target temperature of 70 degrees — “but the situation has been addressed and they are warm,” he said.

The affected classrooms were at Perquimans Central School and Perquimans County High School.

Cheeseman said maintenance staff were alerted about the issue right away and the classrooms were warm by 9 a.m.

The Perquimans district also reported two bus delays. Those problems were fixed on-site, he said.

Tuesday was a teacher workday for the Edenton-Chowan Public Schools.

“As for now, I do not know of any plans that would differ from a normal schedule for tomorrow,” Edenton-Chowan Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Maddox said on Tuesday.

Maddox added that school officials will continue monitoring weather conditions.

Students in the Currituck County Schools also were not slated to return for classes until today.

“We will use Tuesday to finalize preparations for Wednesday and to monitor the latest weather forecasts,” Currituck Schools Superintendent Mark Stefanik said Tuesday.

Camden County Schools spokeswoman Marianne Russell said Tuesday that heating systems at all schools were in good working order and district officials expect all schools to open today.

Russell said school officials will be closely monitoring weather conditions today.