SAISD students return to class following widespread heating system failures

SAN ANTONIO – A majority of students in the San Antonio Independent School District returned to warmer classrooms Monday after widespread heating system failures prompted the shutdown of all 98 schools in the district for two days last week.

Superintendent Jaime Aquino said most campuses have adequate heating but there are eight schools that are either too hot or too cold.

The district deployed 1,100 portable climate-control units to campuses across the district to help with temperature control. SAISD Chief of Staff Toni Thompson said the temperature in most classrooms will be between 68 and 72 degrees.

“We’re going to keep these climate-control units on these campuses or where needed in the district through March to get us through this period,” Toni Thompson, SAISD Chief of Staff said.

Campuses will continue to be monitored all week as technicians continue assessing the situation.

Aquino said the district had up to 50 technicians over the weekend working on the heating systems throughout the district.

There were multiple causes for the problems, including aging infrastructure, deferred maintenance, human error and funding issues.

He said he hoped it would be a wake-up to local, state and federal governments about how inadequate funding hurts public schools.

A cold front brought temperatures well below freezing as SAISD schools were out for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday with lows dipping down into the teens. Students went back to class Tuesday and found temperatures in some classrooms were in the 50s as temperatures stayed below freezing for more than 50 consecutive hours.

The district announced late Tuesday night that it would be closing 20 campuses on Wednesday. As more issues were discovered, another 11 schools were added to the closures list on Wednesday.

Aquino then held a news conference Wednesday saying about 70% of SAISD schools had experienced some degree of heating system failure and all schools would be closed the rest of the week.

The district has hired a third party to conduct an investigation into what happened. Two district leaders resigned following the campus shutdowns including Ken Thompson, Deputy Superintendent of Operations, and Mike Eaton, Chief of Operations.

Aquino said there’s no word yet on how much the heating system failures had cost the district.

While the classrooms were warmer, another weather-related issue prompted the district to close two schools on Monday. Overnight storms caused power outages at DeZavala Elementary School and Estrada Achievement Center, Aquino said. CPS Energy is working to restore power.

Aquino said 85% of students were in attendance Monday.

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