Classrooms reach frigid temperatures in Perth Amboy schools

Noe Ramirez joined other parents and teachers who demanded that the Perth Amboy Board of Education explain why the school system failed to let them know that their children were forced to sit in cold classrooms.

Photos sent to NJTV show a thermometer in different classrooms at the Robert N. Wilentz Elementary School where temperatures dipped down to the 50s and 30s. Ramirez said the school sent home a note about the temperatures two days after.

“It was alarming, especially on Monday and Tuesday when it was the coldest days,” Ramirez said.

A letter sent out by the school’s principal Tuesday acknowledged that there was a “problem” with the temperature in certain rooms and stated that children would be “relocated” in the meantime. One student said it was so cold that her teacher brought in space heaters to keep the classroom warm.

“We have a heater and it’s a small room so we keep the door closed,” said fourth grade student Joule Walker. “So we would have to put on our coats and everything, because it would be super, duper cold because of the windows. … You can switch rooms to warmer room, if your room is too cold.”

“We used to have control there are thermostats in the classroom,” said Pat Paradiso, intervention teacher Robert N. Wilentz Elementary School. “Now we have no control, the custodians have no control, maintenance has no control. It’s operated centrally.”

Paradiso experienced the cold temperatures firsthand at the school. She says in order to control the heat and air in classrooms, teachers must first email an energy specialist, who then, she says, emails someone else to fix the problem.

“I was told that he collects data, so he collects data and then somehow it’s prioritized where the needs are or what has to be done,”  Paradiso said. “Or wait for someone to come over and tell you this is broken. [When] the night custodians are working, they’ll lower the temperature, the thermometer, so they’re working in the 40s with hats and coast on. I would like to know what kind of money they’re saving.”

The attorney for the Perth Amboy Board of Education released a statement saying, “Since the 2014-2015 school year, the Perth Amboy Board of Education has invested more than $20,000,000 in upgrades to our schools’ HVAC, buildings and windows. The district will be undertaking an additional HVAC project during the current year at a cost of $5,000,000 …”

“We have a protocol for step 1. What’s step 2? What are you doing? When are you going to fix this? If you need parts, let us know how long it’s going to take. I think we have the right to know that and I think the parents have the right to know that,” Paradiso said.

Paradiso says she’s reached out to the superintendent numerous times but has yet to hear back from him. There’s no word on when the heating in the classrooms will be fixed.