GARY — As temperatures dipped below 20 degrees, Gary Roosevelt students and teachers stood outside the school Wednesday protesting a lack of heat in the building and the ability to get a quality education.

Students have rarely been in the building since they returned from the Christmas holiday. The school was dismissed a half-day on a couple of days because of problems with the boilers that heat the building. It closed Jan. 8 due to the lack of heat and again Wednesday.

The school is scheduled to be closed Thursday and Friday for development days.

The students say enough is enough.

Roosevelt senior Cary Martin said it's really bad inside the building.

"Some of us have come to expect not being in the building because it's too cold," he said. "This happens every year, but it's time for a change. This is affecting our education. This is really sad."

He said there are also problems with water inside the building, with few water fountains working and none of the showers in the locker rooms.

"Some of my colleagues and friends stink after class because they can't wash up," Martin said.

Food is also an issue, along with mold and damage in the school's band room.

In January 2014, due to the heating failures, a number of pipes burst causing the hallways near the gym to flood with up to 2 inches of water. In June 2014, Indiana American Water Co. turned off the water due to a lack of payment on the bill.

Freshman English teacher Brandi Bullock said the temperature in the hallways ranges in the 40s, while the classroom temperatures are sporadic with some warm classrooms and others freezing.

"The problem is that we can't be in the classrooms because there are not enough warm spaces," she said. "It used to be that the library was a warm respite from the cold but the boiler that supported that room is not working."

Bullock echoed the students saying students can't shower or wash up after gym because there isn't any water for that.

"It's a very serious issue," she said, also mentioning the problem with the band room.

"The band students are crammed in one classroom with all of their instruments," she said.

Roosevelt student engagement director Gisele Jones said the students are tired of the problems.

Students wanted to let the public know exactly what was going on inside of the building and how it is affecting their education.

EdisonLearning Co. is the private management company that operates Gary Roosevelt. Gary Community School Corp. still owns the building, and EdisonLearning is considered a tenant.

There are 670 students in seventh through 12th grades.

There have been problems with heating and repairs to the building almost since the company took over operation of the school about five years ago. EdisonLearning filed a lawsuit a couple of years ago over who was responsible for repairs and maintenance at the building.

EdisonLearning spokesman Michael Serpe said based on information from the school district and Arctic Engineering, which is doing the repairs, every effort is being made to have the school open by Jan. 27.

He said if everything goes according to plan, the students will miss a total of four school days.

Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said it's important that every child receive a quality education in a building conducive to learning.

"Although it has not been determined who is responsible for repairs at Roosevelt, the Gary Community School Corp. continues to lend its support for the sake of the children," she said. "We've had people over there for several days. Administrators from both sides have met, and we are working to make certain those kids are back in school."


Education reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.