GARY — Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy is open and ready for students a few days early after contractors worked all weekend to fix the heat.
Gary Roosevelt is operated by Tennessee-based EdisonLearning Co., a private management company appointed by the state about five years ago due to poor academic performance under the Gary Community School Corp.
The school has been closed for several days due to lack of heat.
The Gary school system still owns the building, and EdisonLearning is considered a tenant.
Gary Roosevelt students and teachers protested the frigid temps inside the building earlier last week. There have been problems with the boiler system, and students have lost multiple days of learning this year. Students and teachers say the heating problems have occurred every winter since EdisonLearning took over the operation.
Gary schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said Monday contractors have been working since "day one," to get the heat on and get students back into school. "That building is under an agreement between the state of Indiana and EdisonLearning. It's our goal to make sure that all of our children get a quality education," she said.
The Gary Community School Corp. contracted Artic Engineering Co., a local contractor, to help permanently repair the heating system at Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, local ministers and community residents were among nearly a dozen people who were at the building Monday in hopes of a tour promised earlier by students.
However, Roosevelt Superintendent Sabrena Davis and Principal Donna Henry explained that it was the first day back in class, and teachers and administrators needed to acclimate students back into school.
Gary City Council President Ron Brewer said many of the schools in Gary have had heating issues. "It comes down to the funding and who is going to pick up the tab for the repairs," he said. "The Gary school system has other schools with similar problems but they have been putting all of their resources into Roosevelt right now."
Freeman-Wilson said it's also a problem of the age of the buildings, and City Hall had recent problems with its boiler.
"You can't just go to Menards to get parts. You can't even go to the local heating and cooling businesses to get these parts. These are very old boiler systems. I think initially there was some patch-work done at Roosevelt, but now it's being fixed permanently. But you still can't guarantee that it won't go out again tomorrow because the building is so old," she said.
Davis said room temperatures Monday ranged around 70 degrees in the classrooms. She said it's important that classes like Read 180 or the Achieve 3000 classes, which focus on improving student reading levels, are able to operate in their regular rooms. She said it's difficult to move those classes because of the materials and other technology that students use in the classroom.
Davis also said students had missed school at a time when critical testing would be taking place in the next few weeks.
Jerusalem Baptist Church pastor the Rev. Isaac Culver Jr. said the Legislature needs to invest more money in the Gary schools so the district can tear down old buildings and improve the buildings students occupy.
Local ministers also don't agree that closing school buildings and reducing the number of employees is the best answer to solving the school district's financial problems. The district has a deficit of nearly $40 million with a total debt of $92 million. They also say some issues need to be resolved through legislative action.