Strough back in service but boiler woes linger

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Strough Middle School was back in regular session today, but issues affecting boilers that caused an early dismissal Friday are still being addressed.

The school district was able to bypass a natural gas booster and operate four boilers at the 801 Laurel St. building, district Superintendent Peter C. Blake said today.

However, “there is not enough natural gas to also use the kitchen equipment, so we will need to ship food into the building until the booster can be rebuilt,” Blake added. A natural gas booster device is needed because gas service into the building is not large enough to sustain a building of that size, he explained.

Strough on Friday was dismissed early at about 11:15 a.m. due to boiler failures. Blake had said Friday there was partial operation of boilers, but not enough boiler support to heat the building and cook food. He had said a pump that helped the boilers to function had failed and could not replaced Friday. Schools were not in session on Monday which was the observance of Veterans Day.

None of the concerns were addressed in a recent capital project at Strough, said Blake. The building had been vacated during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years for a $25.4 million renovation, with students temporarily using other sites, before the building reopened in September 2018.

When asked why the concerns that affected the boilers were not addressed in the capital project, Blake said “I don’t have an answer for that as I was not here when the project was developed and approved by SED (state Education Department).” Blake became district superintendent in July 2016. District voters approved a public bonding referendum for the project in December 2011, but the project was subsequently delayed by several factors and underwent several discussions before plans were finalized.

The school district is now using a different architectural and design company than who was involved in the Strough project, observed Blake, and information regarding the handling of boiler-related topics in the project “is not readily available.” He added he has “the same questions as to why it wasn’t addressed in two capital projects at Strough.”

In addition to the recent $25.4 million capital project, Strough about eight years ago underwent a capital project involving work in the gymnasium area among the components.

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