JEFFERSON PARK — The boiler that sickened nearly 90 students and teachers at Prussing Elementary School will be replaced, Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool said in a letter to school officials Tuesday.
Although Claypool and other CPS officials told parents eight days ago that the boiler was a “solid, solid piece of equipment” and did not need to be replaced, the district “will take every step to ensure the new boiler is operational before the next school year,” Claypool said.
The reversal came after Claypool met Monday with Ald. John Arena (45th) and representatives of the Prussing Elementary School Local School Council, Chairwoman Michele Taylor Rodriguez and member Phil Huckelberry.
Claypool said district officials agreed to replace the boiler because parents and school officials “were very persuasive,” Huckelberry told DNAinfo Chicago.
In addition, district officials will assign a permanent engineer to the school at 4650 N. Menard Ave. five days a week to monitor the school’s heating system. City officials will also inspect the boiler once a month to ensure that it is working properly, Claypool said.
At a meeting of the Prussing Local School Council Nov. 17, Claypool — and other top CPS officials — were repeatedly berated by incensed parents of Prussing students for putting their children at risk by trying to save money by not replacing the nearly 100-year-old boiler that has been the subject of a litany of complaints dating back to 2013.
In his letter Tuesday, Claypool apologized again for the incident that started around 9:30 a.m. Oct. 30 that sent 81 students and nine teachers to local hospitals.
The part of boiler that failed — the gas regulator — and caused the leak has been replaced. Fire doors that should have been closed to prevent carbon monoxide from seeping into the building were open at the time of the incident, and doors designed to let in fresh air to disperse a carbon monoxide leak were closed, although they should have been open, officials said.
In addition, while the carbon monoxide detector in the boiler room was working, it was unplugged on the morning of Oct. 30, when the boiler malfunctioned, said CPS Chief Administrative Officer Jose Alfonso de Hoyos-Acosta.
District officials have moved to fire the engineer on duty Oct. 30, who was suspended without pay after the incident.
More than 5,000 carbon monoxide detectors will be installed in schools across Chicago by Dec. 1, one of several changes in CPS policies that will be made after a two-week investigation of the incident at Prussing, Claypool said.
Several lawsuits have already been filed against the CPS in connection with the incident.
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