SAISD campuses closed through Friday; superintendent explains ‘system failures’ that led to cold classrooms

SAN ANTONIO – All schools in the San Antonio Independent School District will be closed Thursday and Friday after heating system failures created school environments too cold to educate students.

SAISD Superintendent Jaime Aquino said at a news conference Wednesday that there was a significant system-wide failure of the heating system across the district. He added that about 70% of schools have experienced heating system failures.

Aquino said crews will perform quality control checks, assess the problems and make necessary repairs at the campuses on those two days.

“As we move forward, we will not open a single school until it is warm, safe and a good place for learning,” he said.

Aquino said he knows there are plenty of frustrated parents with questions about why schools were allowed to remain open on Tuesday despite the cold classrooms.

The superintendent sent a letter to parents apologizing for the situation but reiterated that he takes the blame for allowing schools to proceed.

“I take full responsibility for making the wrong call. Too many of our students and staff across SAISD were in unfavorable conditions today, and that will not continue and it is unacceptable,” he said. “We have failed our students, our staff, our community by not having accurate, reliable information.”

Aquino said that while some schools are operating efficiently, the majority are not.

He said the district planned for the frigid weather to have boilers running at all buildings. The system was checked Monday but since the boilers were running on a schedule to shut off at 5 a.m. for about five hours, the boiler pipes burst in freezing temperatures, resulting in a major heating failure at some schools.

“We made a human error in terms of not manually overriding the system so that boilers could run 24 hours,” Aquino said. The superintendent added that he’s taking a deep look at infrastructure, causes of the issue and personnel involved.

Aquino also blamed the problem on deferred boiler maintenance because the district is severely underfunded by the state.

“No excuse, but it is a reality when our basic allotment has not been increased since 2019. The cost of inflation has increased dramatically,” he said.

He said the reason why more schools were not initially closed on Wednesday was that the heating issues were not uncovered until the morning. The district announced late Tuesday night that it would be closing 20 campuses on Wednesday. Another 10 schools were added to the closures list on Wednesday morning.

The district has made adjustments to provide better “on-the-ground, real-time information” to ensure that buildings are fully operational and provide a safe environment for learning.

Aquino commended principals, teachers and support personnel for their commitment to keeping students warm and said that safety always supersedes instruction.

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