PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Students of a problem-plagued Pawtucket middle school are set to return to the classroom Friday, after a pipe burst and flooded nearly two dozen classrooms earlier this year.
Henry J. Winters Elementary School has been closed since the state experienced a record-breaking cold snap, during which a heating coil malfunctioned and caused significant water damage to 23 classrooms on the third floor.
The school was supposed to reopen Monday, however, another pipe burst over the weekend causing more water damage. The cause of both heating coil failures remains under investigation.
Students have been distance learning ever since, much to the frustration of parents who are confused as to why a brand-new school building has had a myriad of issues.
The $49 million elementary school first opened last September, though the first day of classes was pushed back a week after inspectors discovered one of the backup fire alarm batteries had failed.
Acting Superintendent Lisa Benedetti-Ramzi said the construction company that built the school inspected the 68 heating coils this week and determined they’re all working properly.
“Our students are coming back to a safe, warm and fully-functioning building,” Benedetti-Ramzi said. “No issues have been found with those heating coils.”
12 News toured the school Thursday afternoon and got a firsthand look at the renovations made in the classrooms that were hit the hardest.
“There was water everywhere, there were ceiling tiles on the floor,” Benedetti-Ramzi said of the classrooms prior to the renovations.
The ceiling tiles and carpets in those classrooms have since been removed and replaced.
Benedetti-Ramzi said two classrooms will remain closed, including the room where the first heating coil burst.
In an effort to prevent it from happening again, the construction company installed alarms designed to immediately notify building maintenance if the system’s temperature drops below average.
While the investigation into what caused the heating coil failures continues, Benedetti-Ramzi said their focus right now is welcoming students back to the classroom.
“It’s night and day,” she said. “This is the way it’s supposed to look; this is what it looked like before. I’m super excited that we’re back.”