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Arctic weather leaves schools seeking repairs

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

This week's cold caused several weather-related troubles for schools and left damage.

One of the two boilers at Lone Oak Intermediate School malfunctioned late Friday. School officials ordered a part that day and worked to repair the system throughout the day Tuesday while the school's second boiler kept working, said Todd Jackson, McCracken County facilities director.

He said the building uses a radiator-type heat, which took extra time to heat the larger rooms after the boiler was fixed. Jackson also pointed to the age of the building and the atypical arctic temperatures as causes for the cold rooms.

"For all our schools that aren't brand new, you have to keep a close eye and check on them because things will break down," he said. "Our highest priority is our kids, and we would never endanger them."

Jackson said some of the classrooms with outside walls got down to about 57 degrees but district crews were on the scene until 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to ensure no other issues arose. He said individual fan blowers in two classrooms were not working Wednesday morning but were quickly fixed.

Principal Victor Zimmerman said he decided to move students in four colder classrooms to empty heated rooms so no instructional time was lost Tuesday. He said school staff was grateful that the power problem was remedied quickly during such a high demand time.

School board chairman Jeff Parker said the cafeteria registered in the low to mid 50 degree range when he visited the school Tuesday. He said the primary heating system was back to working order Wednesday.

"When you have a 30-year-old school and sub-zero temperatures, issues are going to come up," he said.

Lone Oak Elementary School also experienced a heating problem Monday when individual heaters in eight classrooms didn't work and had to be reset.

Supply lines to cooling towers had problems at Hendron-Lone Oak Elementary School and Farley Elementary School but students were not affected, according to Jackson.

Murray State University sustained some damage following a power outage from about 6 p.m. Monday through about 9 a.m. Tuesday mandated by the school's contract with Tennessee Valley Authority. The university has an interruptible power contract that allows for as little as five minutes notice of a shut-off during peak power periods, according to public information officer Catherine Sivills.

The school remained closed throughout Tuesday and Wednesday to assess the damage, including flooding from burst pipes and other problems caused by the outage, and to begin the repairs. Although many of the residential halls and fine arts and other instructional buildings experienced some trouble, the problems weren't as extensive as first thought. Many problems were relatively minor issues that wouldn't affect daily school operations, she said.

Kim Oatman, MSU chief facilities officer, said the university will use money from the maintenance reserve fund to pay for repairs and then be reimbursed by its insurance provider. The main campus will full resume operations, with all buildings and offices open at 7 a.m. today. Oatman said he expects all problems to be resolved by the time students return to campus Sunday.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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