Parents ask why new $20 million school has heat problems

Posted at 12:28 AM, Jan 10, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-10 00:28:34-05

A year ago Richmond’s mayor and other city leaders gathered on the south side to celebrate the opening of a brand new school- Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary.

This week school leaders are trying to figure out how they’re going to fix a major heating problem there.  CBS 6 News has learned that the problem prompted school officials to set up space heaters in the school to keep students warm.

It’s a scenario that just doesn’t make sense to taxpayer Elaine Evans. How this twenty million dollar school, which boasts state of the art technology is already having problems with the heating system.

“A school’s heating system should last ten years or more. No, they shouldn’t have problems, they just built it” Evans said.

A CBS 6 investigation found that the problem has been frustrating some Richmond School Board members. RPS spokesperson Felicia Cosby recently confirmed that space heaters were used to keep kids warm at the school just before they went out for their winter break.

We asked board member Dr. Derik Jones who represents that district what he thinks of the space heaters being used and why they were necessary.

He told us it is very disappointing. “It’s something we voiced our frustrations to the city administration about and to the contractors. It’s an ongoing issue we’re working through but I’m told it is a defect in the HVAC system and that you have to work through it with the contractor and the person who built the building” Jones added.

Board member Kim Gray said she found out about the space heaters a few weeks ago. “I’m told they no longer use them, but space heaters to many of us are always a safety concern. I’m hoping we can get to the bottom of it and fix the problem” Gray said. Jones explained that the heaters were only used briefly and they were not in every class.

“It was some isolated halls and classrooms where they were needed but I’m not sure of how many we had. I never want to see a space heater used” Jones explained. He said rest parents can rest assured that he and the board won’t rest until their HVAC problem is resolved once and for all.

RPS spokesperson Felicia Cosby told CBS 6 News that the forty space heaters in question were already owned by the school system and that they did not have to go out and purchase them specifically for this incident. She sent CBS 6 News the following statement.

“ There were heating issues at Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary for a limited time prior to the beginning of Winter Break.  In order to ensure the comfort of our students and staff during that time, we repurposed portable heaters already in the district's possession to use where needed in the building. The facility is still under warranty and we are working with the heating/cooling contractor, as well as the City, to resolve the issue as expeditiously as possible. We are pleased to note that during the extreme cold front the region experienced earlier this week, the heating system at Oak Grove-Bellemeade functioned properly.”