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Roosevelt still closed, students could be relocated

Water covers floor classroom where pipes one heating coils burst due cold temperatures Roosevelt High School January 28 2014. |

Water covers the floor in a classroom where the pipes in one of the heating coils burst due to the cold temperatures at Roosevelt High School on January 28, 2014. | Jim Karczewski\for Sun-Times media

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Updated: March 3, 2014 4:40PM



GARY — Roosevelt College and Career Academy students missed school again Thursday, and school district officials may relocate the students until the aging boiler system is up and running.

“The heat is not widespread throughout the building so we can’t move students to warm spaces,” said Principal Donna Henry. She expressed hope classes could resume Friday. About 600 students are enrolled at the school.

Meanwhile, State Board of Education member Tony Walker of Gary asked Gov. Mike Pence and the Indiana Department of Education to offer emergency financial assistance for the repair of the Roosevelt boilers.

“Getting those students back into their school as soon as possible should be a state priority since it is under state control. I fear these missed instructional days will impact student performance, including ISTEP results. Hopefully, the superintendent of public instruction will act immediately,” he said.

While students miss class, the icy relationship between Gary Community School Corp. and takeover operator EdisonLearning Inc. isn’t thawing. District spokeswoman Sarita Stevens said Thursday district workers have tried to teach EdisonLearning’s custodian how to operate the boiler system.

“For some reason, there’s resistance of him being trained or doing the job at all,” she said. “The agreement signed said we’d do the maintenance and actual repairs if something happens, but the operational side is required by people in building.”

Stevens said communication has become a major stumbling block. “It’s like working with a chameleon. They switch gears and can never get to the bottom of problems. If we have this problem over and over again, this will be a money pit to the district and taxpayers of this community.”

Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said the shared services contract calls for EdisonLearning personnel to perform periodic checks on the heating and cooling system. She said EdisonLearning did a walk-through of the building before it took over operation at the school. “They were given $800,000 to do a full assessment of the building,” she said.

She said the school district spent $8 million on the heating system in 2008.

“In our opinion, they are negligent, they have not been doing due diligence in taking care of our building,” Pruitt said. “We have gone above and beyond what it is in this contract.”

On Wednesday, Walker said the Indiana Department of Education had begun an investigation into the heating controversy that’s plagued the takeover school, operated by EdisonLearning under a four-year state contract. That pact directs state tuition money away from the Gary district to the private for-profit education manager.

Henry said a few parents are “beginning to make some noise” about the closings. “Their concern is their children need to be in school learning.”

Sabrena Davis, director of achievement-leadership, said students in blended learning classes with access to a computer can do their work at home. “They can always send their teachers direct messages, too,” she said.

More problems also developed overnight Wednesday as another pipe burst, leaking water into three classrooms, she said.

Thursday became the sixth day of missed classes because of heat issues this school year. Students also missed school Monday and Tuesday due to subzero temperatures.

EdisonLearning officials say the Gary Community School Corp. has been slow to act when they’ve alerted the district of problems. Both sides recently signed the shared services agreement.



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