PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — The construction company tasked with building a problem-plagued Pawtucket elementary school is inspecting every single heating coil it installed after two failed in recent months.
Representatives from Gilbane Building Company gave an update to members of the Pawtucket School Committee during an emergency meeting Tuesday night, saying their crews began examining the 68 heating coils at Henry J. Winters Elementary School Monday. The construction company is on track to complete the inspection by Wednesday.
Students have been distance learning since a pipe burst and flooded nearly two dozen classrooms earlier this year, when the state experienced a record-breaking cold snap.
The school was supposed to reopen Monday, however, the district tells 12 News another pipe burst over the weekend causing more water damage.
Both pipe bursts happened on the third floor and were caused by a failed heating coil.
“One hundred and thirty-degree water came bursting out of those [pipes],” Pawtucket School Committee Chairman Jim Chellel said. “If it happened on a school day, it could have been a tragic situation.”
Gilbane said it was originally believed that an open window was a factor in freezing the pipe, but when the second incident happened last weekend, all signs pointed to the school’s air conditioning unit.
The reason why the system failed is still unclear, but in the meantime Gilbane is implementing a series of mitigation efforts to prevent it from happening again.
Those mitigation efforts include shutting off the air conditioning unit, adding antifreeze to the system and installing alarms to notify building maintenance if the system’s temperature drops below average.
Acting Superintendent Lisa Benedetti-Ramzi said, if all goes according to plan, students will be back in the classroom by Friday. She plans to make a definitive call by Thursday.
“[Gilbane has] assured me that those pipes can’t be exposed to those same conditions because of these mitigation strategies,” Benedetti-Ramzi said.
The $49 million elementary school 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.