Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Old electrical systems stretched to capacity

[IMAGE] A tangle of exposed wiring in a closet on McKinley School's third floor, where computers are stored and maintained.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
The electricity shorted out in Katie Hofmann's music classroom at Fairview German Bilingual School at least three times in a three-week span two years ago.

The problems began when steam from radiators in the basement restrooms ate away the ceiling plaster, necessitating a renovation of the restrooms. The power outages occurred after school district heating technicians and electricians installed new electric heaters in the girls and boys bathrooms near Hofmann's basement classroom.

But the school's aged circuitry could not support the added power. Turning on the heaters caused outages in three classrooms and the hall.

Seventy schools need new electrical systems at a total cost of $63.3 million, the state says.
"It was really bad for us if we were using CD players or overhead projectors," Hofmann says. "It would just blow everything out. If you're doing a listening lesson, listening to a piece of music on a CD, and lose all your power, it kind of ruins your lesson plans."

Fairview, built in 1888 and expanded in 1958, has an electric panel system that is more than 50 years old and is at capacity. To correct the problem, the district installed a new electric panel.

Teachers on the third floor still struggle to find wall outlets, while Hofmann can't use her computer at her desk because the computer connection is at the back of the room.

Jennifer Mrozowski

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