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Battered Roosevelt still cold and closed; state investigating

Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Pruitt asks Custodian Wendell Brown about boilers use Roosevelt High School January 28 2014. | Jim Karczewski\for

Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Pruitt asks Custodian Wendell Brown about the boilers in use at Roosevelt High School on January 28, 2014. | Jim Karczewski\for Sun-Times media

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Updated: March 3, 2014 4:05PM



GARY — The Indiana Department of Education has launched an investigation into the continued heating issues at the Roosevelt College and Career Academy, a State Board of Education member said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Roosevelt was closed again Wednesday. It marked the fifth time this school year that the state takeover school operated by EdisonLearning Inc. was shut down because of a lack of heat.

“This is a disservice to the kids attending Roosevelt, and GCSC should be more diligent in fulfilling its responsibilities toward the education of Roosevelt students,” said state board member Tony Walker, referring to the Gary Community School Corp. that owns the building.

He said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz advised him her department was investigating the matter and will give a report at the Feb. 5 state board meeting in Indianapolis.

Gary Community School Corp. maintenance workers struggled to bring the school’s aging boiler system back to life Wednesday after burst pipes led to flooding, delivering a knockout blow to the school’s heating system.

Sabrena Davis, director of achievement-leadership at Roosevelt, said some classrooms recorded temperatures as low as 30 degrees. She said other classrooms, while warmer, still didn’t meet the mandatory state minimum temperature of 68 degrees.

“We’re disappointed that we continue to miss out on instructional days,” she said. “We were told yesterday, the building would be warm and ready. We were operating under the assumption Gary would have it fixed.”

She said she’s applied for waivers for the missed days from the Indiana Department of Education. Meanwhile, she said the school has already made up one of the days missed because of heating issues on Dec. 13. She said the school could make up the time on days it had scheduled for teacher training, if necessary.

EdisonLearning and the school district have traded jabs over the responsibility of maintaining the heating system. Both sides have signed a shared services contract that basically designates the school district as the landlord and building owner.

But school district officials say EdisonLearning has hired its own maintenance workers who don’t perform regular checks on the boiler system and also don’t notify the district in time to avert major problems.

Other Gary Community School Corp. students returned to class Wednesday after two days off because of subzero temperatures. Some other district schools have had boiler problems, as well.

Building and Grounds Director Charles Prewitt said a small insulation fire started at Webster Elementary School after water in the boiler got too low. He said those problems have been fixed.

About 600 students attend Roosevelt, which was taken over by the state in 2011 after six straight years of sub-par academic performance. EdisonLearning has a four-year contract with the Indiana Department of Education to improve the school’s academics.

Last year, however, Roosevelt received another “F” on school assessment grades.



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