East Providence High Taped Up Against Cold; Waddington Closed

Classes on after officials worked overnight to get some classrooms up to 70 degrees.

The entrance to East Providence High School off of Pawtucket Avenue. CREDIT: Patch File Photo
The entrance to East Providence High School off of Pawtucket Avenue. CREDIT: Patch File Photo
East Providence High School's heating system can't keep up with the frigid temperatures settling over the region this week, spurring officials to tape up the windows so they can hold classes today.

Last night, the situation looked like it might cancel school there altogether, but officials wound up closing Waddington School this morning instead when a foul odor led them to a burst pipe, said Tony Ferreira, School Committee member and liaison to the City Council.

The cold has been plaguing students, teachers and staff in the high school all week. "We've been without heat for two days," said Councilor Chrissy Rossi during Tuesday night's City Council meeting. 

The high school heating problems, which have nothing to do with the boilers, are twofold. First, there are five broken blowers that are supposed to move the heat from the boilers to five classrooms, said Ferreira. Replacements are on order and should show up sometime today, Ferreira said. 

But even with those blowers in working order the High School's heating system isn't able to keep up with the recent frigid temperatures, the coldest to affect the northeast since 2009, according to accuweather.com. "It's just that it's so cold, the boiler can't produce enough heat," Ferreira said.

Councilman Helder Cunha noted the building's large windows weren't helping. "You're losing it all from the windows," he said.

Cunha asked Ferreira what the cut-off would be before it was too cold for classes. Ferreira said 68 degrees would be the minimum, but that was a threshold Ed Catelli, the school building supervisor, was having trouble meeting. "...to go into a classroom 64, 65 (degrees) and try to learn, that's unacceptable," Ferreira said.

Ferreira told the Council if Catelli was unable to get the building up to at least 68 degrees, he would instruct the superintendent to cancel classes there for the day. But by 7 a.m., they'd managed to get the temperature in some classrooms up to 70 degrees, Ferreira said. 

Ferreira  said students will meet in their regular classes today, then move to the warmer rooms. Even so, "Ed's going to tape up every window," in the north side facing Pawtucket Avenue, Ferreira said, to keep the heat in.

According to a report from EastBayRI.com, the school experienced a similar chill during cold weather in December. Nonetheless, Councilors, save for Rossi, who said she'd heard from several parents late that afternoon, appeared surprised by the news. "Why weren't we aware of this?" Cunha asked.

Ferreira said he'd just learned of the situation himself from Rossi at about 4:30 p.m. that day. "We don't get emails when things happen," he said, "We get nothing."

A brief discussion about the future of the building, which is currently undergoing renovations and is under threat of losing its accreditation due to the structure's condition, followed. Cunha and City Manager Paul Lemont suggested a room-by-room assessment to determine what more the building needs to have done to continue serving as a school.

Ferreira pointed out the plumbing in the building alone provides a daunting challenge, because of the block construction, which set pipes behind hard-to-access walls. "In between the block walls, the effort to fix a urinal is thousands of dollars,"  Ferreira said. 

The council agreed to revisit the issue during their next meeting Jan. 21. Ferreira said he will check in at the school to make sure the plan keeps everyone warm enough to keep their attention on learning instead of the cold.

LC January 08, 2014 at 04:59 PM
My daughter sat in her classroom and it was 45 degrees. That is inexcusable to me. They should have let the kids go home. They say its fixed all but 5 classrooms, yea right. We shall see...totally disgusted!
Rob Borkowski January 08, 2014 at 05:57 PM
Folks, if you'd like to comment for an update on this story, please e-mail me directly at robert@patch.com.
Rumford Resident January 08, 2014 at 08:55 PM
Where is the state delegation from EP in regards to this issue? Doesn't State Rep Amore work in the building??? Doesn't he communicate with the city reps and school committee??? If the only one who has a clue about any of this is Chrissy Rossi, then God help us….. Perhaps if our reps like Amore and Conley and Kazarian cared more about the schools and city infrastructure and less about important issues like gay marriage, there would have been some progress on improving the schools in the city. Clearly EP is more and more becoming a third world community that can not support itself and poorly represented. That is what you get with 1 party rule and unions in total control. The good news is that the 'retired' former school superintendent keeps his 6 figure large annual pension but the kids and current teachers are freezing in the high school…..Pathetic but reality…..
Kevin Oliver January 12, 2014 at 06:48 AM
These are the questions I have. First, upon doing a very little research I found that no room was ever in the 40's. All that took was a phone call. Secondly, if they can't learn at 64° they can't learn at 68°. Lastly, if your children dressed for winter and not like they weregoing to a nightclub then 64° wouldn't be so cold. They can wear a sweatshirt outside at 30° and not claim to be cold...... but wear one at 64° in a classroom and they are freezing?.
EPHS STUDENT January 21, 2014 at 01:28 AM
Some input from a student( not that anyone seems to care what we have to say, we're only students)There weren't any rooms at 40 degrees but Mr. Amores room was 58.7 first period of the day and the band room was 57.6. We had class in those rooms. You can't blame Maintenence though, the school is so old that it can't be fixed. It's not going to fall down but the heating is a mess, the plumbing is impossible to fix, and many other things are broken. It's not a secure facility in the case of an emergency. EPHS IS A MONEY PIT. We could be making payments on a new school building for the same amount of money that we are spending on duct taping the school together. These renovations are lipstick on a pig, and nothing else.


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