- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2007

D.C. public schools officials said repairs of heating problems that have kept two schools closed would be finished by last night and that classes likely will resume at the facilities tomorrow.

“What we don’t want to do is bring students back prematurely,” schools spokesman John C. White said.

Four schools in the 142-school system were closed last Wednesday and about 30 others were forced to crowd students into undamaged wings of school buildings because of the frigid weather that swept through the District last week.

Simon Elementary School in Southeast reopened Friday, and Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School in Northeast reopened yesterday.

But Johnson Junior High School in Southeast and H.D. Woodson Senior High School in Northeast remained closed yesterday. Students have been attending classes in other school buildings while theirs are repaired.

Mr. White said officials have finished repairing problems at Johnson, which largely were caused by broken heating units in classrooms.

Work at Woodson was expected to be completed last night, but officials wanted to ensure that the buildings were fully heated before allowing students to return.

“We wanted to run through the systems one more day just to make sure,” Mr. White said.

Dave Anderson, facilities services manager for the school system, said that heating failures at Woodson stemmed largely from cold air that cracked coils inside the heaters in many of the school’s classrooms.

The cold air entered the classrooms through louvers, or ventlike openings, on the outside of the building that were stuck open and connect directly to the heaters, Mr. Anderson said. The air then cracked the heater coils, many of which have been in the aging, dilapidated building since it opened in 1972.

The cracks subsequently caused water to leak out of the heaters and into portions of the building, causing water damage that cleaning crews also would have to repair.

The majority of Woodson’s classrooms were warm yesterday. Of the school’s 19 originally broken coils — metallic rectangles inside the heater that stand roughly 6 feet by 12 feet and contain copper piping — all but two had been replaced or repaired by yesterday afternoon.

“All it takes is one of those coils in the system to break,” Mr. Anderson said. “It’s like a radiator in a car. When it goes bad, you replace it.”

The Board of Education last week made $900,000 immediately available for a “blitz” of repairs to the school buildings, where other problems included broken valves and pumps, and broken boilers.

The money for the repairs will come from the school system’s operating budget, and Mr. White said contractors from 18 companies have been working on the schools.

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