By Jay Lancaster
The School Committee recently heard about the temperature regulation problems facing Pickering Middle School. Michael Donovan, chief of the Inspectional Services Department told the committee about the issues surrounding the rapidly aging heating system at the school.
“The older portion from 1907 has lived its useful life, let’s put it that way. The 1953 addition is what the MSBA would consider beyond its useful life of 50 years ,and that was 14 years ago. The entire heating and ventilation system in the school has been patched and needs to be replaced. The city missed an opportunity when the vote wasn’t approved to fix the school, but short of pumping millions of dollars into the building, there’s not much we can do but fix things as they break.”
The building is often too hot and teachers have spoken up about their students getting overheated.
“Generally speaking in most of our schools, cold complaints are not what we’re receiving, we receive complaints that the buildings are overheated, which is just as bad, the teachers say that it’s just as bad for the students because it puts them to sleep. Our buildings are overheated, not underheated.”
Some students have suffered burns from the exposed radiators, but there doesn’t seem to be much agreement on what to do about the issue. Donovan advised the committee, “People just have to stay away from them. That’s how we heat our buildings and that’s how we’ve heated our buildings, in this particular case since 1907, in this building. I feel badly for anyone who gets injured, I don’t want to see that but I don’t know what I could do short of replacing the heating systems or supplementing them if we put wooden covers over all the radiators. I think it’s more of an educational issue where kids need to know that they can’t touch them.”
Steps have already been taken to mitigate the harm done by the exposed radiators, as Superintendent Catherine Latham touched on, when speaking about the signs placed above the radiators, warning children not to touch the radiators. “The signs are very obvious. They’re bright orange, they say ‘Danger Very Hot’ in two languages.”