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Temporary fix keeping Penn Hills High School warm after boilers break

Dillon Carr
689084PennHillsHighSchoolexterior
The main entrance to Penn Hills High School.

In a twist of events, Penn Hills High School is now too hot – even with a faulty heating system.

But Superintendent Nancy Hines said it’s business as usual at the high school and the district is moving forward with a plan to keep the building comfortably warm until an insurance claims adjuster determines what went wrong.

Two of the high school’s five boilers failed last week. District officials report the fix could cost anywhere from $80,000 to $300,000.

Initially, the air conditioning component of the HVAC system was shut down to allow for more heat to be disbursed from the remaining three boilers through the building. .

“But it was too hot this morning in some areas,” Hines said Tuesday.

As a temporary fix, district officials have turned on the air conditioning to combine cold and hot air to create warm air.

“It doesn’t sound normal, but that’s how it works,” Hines said. “Basically, the system is not working as is, so we’re modifying things to buy time for the insurance company to get back to us.”

Keeping the building’s air comfortable will be a manual task until the district can move forward with a fix, Hines said.

Options include replacing the two broken heat exchangers at $40,000 each or replacing the heat exchangers’ housing at $60,000 each. But if there is a design flaw, replacing the entire system could cost up to $300,000.

“The manufacturer is on standby, and they can get those fabricated and shipped within days. But we don’t want to do that if a larger issue needs to be addressed,” Hines said.

The insurance company will make that determination.

“If the insurance is willing to pay for at least part of the fix, we need to give them time to assess the situation,” Hines said. She said she didn’t know when a claims adjuster would visit the site.

Closing the high school due to heating issues is still an option and, with permission from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, does not count as a snow day. The district still has four snow days to use before having to make them up, Hines said.

The National Weather Service issued a wind chill advisory for the Pittsburgh area starting Wednesday morning that will stretch into Thursday evening.

Wind chills are expected to reach 20 below, and NWS warns that frostbite can happen in those conditions on exposed skin in less than 30 minutes.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Penn Hills School District has not canceled Wednesday classes.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter @dillonswriting.