CPS says no repair records after heat fails at Kenwood Academy

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Crusader Staff Report

Chicago Public Schools says it doesn’t have past documents on repairs of a heating system that failed in November during record cold temperatures, leaving thousands of students at Kenwood Academy in Hyde Park in the cold.

Sources told the Crusader that school officials knew about the problems with the heating system way before it failed November 12 when temperatures plummeted to a record 17 degrees. The malfunction left the school with no heat, forcing officials to relocate classes to the school’s auditorium where temporary heaters were used to keep students warm.

The Crusader emailed CPS, requesting past maintenance documents for the heating system under the Freedom of Information Act. On December 10, CPS said it was “informed by the CPS Department of Facilities that some work was owed to CPS under contract so there are no associated records regarding the cost of these services.”

CPS said the repairs are ongoing and that those records may be available at a later date.

The Crusader received several phone calls on November 12 from parents who were concerned after hearing reports that students at Kenwood were forced to stay bundled up that morning after classrooms became so cold that one student said she saw her breath. Students reportedly remained in the classrooms during the ordeal for hours before they were moved to the auditorium.

That day, James Malnati, a press assistant for CPS, released a statement saying, “the safety of our students is always our top priority, which is why we must inform you of a situation affecting our school today. This morning, we became aware that one of our motors failed, which resulted in our school losing heat circulation. We immediately contacted our building engineer and the CPS Facilities Department, and they are working to make necessary repairs. We checked temperature levels several times throughout the day and determined temperatures to be safe. Most students experienced no disruption to their standard school day. One classroom relocated to the cafeteria.

Kenwood Academy has 2,021 students in grades 7th-12th, according to CPS’s website. Nearly 86 percent of the students are Black.

On November 13, Kenwood’s heating problems continued one day after CPS said that heat was restored when they repaired a broken motor in the heating system.

“I regret to inform you that several of our classrooms continue to have insufficient heat circulation,” Kenwood Principal Karen Calloway said in an email to parents.

The problem reportedly had been corrected by November 14.

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