School´s aging boiler system leads to chilly classrooms

December 10, 2013 6:42 pm

Aging boiler system at Dorsa Elementary School

Dorsa Elementary is one of the oldest schools in San Jose’s Alum Rock School District and during the Bay Area’s recent cold snap the building showed just how aged it was.

The 60-year-old school has an equally boiler system, which they depend on for heat.  Given the age, many parts of the system fail during heavy demand.

Some parents expressed concern after receiving an automated telephone call from the school, recommending students bundle up because of heating problems.

Many of these parents told KTVU they were extra upset to learn that the chilly classrooms had been a problem for nearly a week.

“It actually shocked me that it took so long to get any type of contact,” said Sabrina Kraft.

“I had to find out after taking my daughter to class,” pointed out Douglas Kraft.  “The teacher told me, ‘it’s not much warmer inside the classroom as it is outside,’ and it was 28 degrees this morning.”

The situation has not been an unusual one in the Bay Area.

Community United School in Oakland has a similar boiler system and consequently similar cold classrooms.

California building codes call for steps to be taken to maintain a minimum classroom temperature of 68 degrees.

Dorsa and the Alum Rock School District took those measures.

“We were able to bring in space heaters into the classrooms that had unacceptable low temperatures,” said Dr. Tom Green. “We were able to establish a comfortable temperature in the classrooms.”

There are codes that allow parents to file a state complaint if they feel a classroom environment is unsafe.

It hasn’t happened in the Alum Rock district and Dorsa Principal Devorah Duncan says she hopes families understand the situation.

“I put out bulletins when the heating goes down,” said Duncan.  “Ehen I know in advance. Sometimes I don’t know until the last minute and we are just doing our best to accommodate in the moment.”

The district says it hopes to use limited bond measure money to eventually fix the heating problems but say the economy has made it difficult to sell bonds.

The expected rainy weather this winter will likely make fixing the roofs a higher priority.