HAVERHILL — Mild weather arrived just in time for Bradford Elementary School's 600 students. Otherwise, they would have been in cold classrooms this week because the boiler broke down.

The children were a bit cool but still comfortable, even though there was no heat on Monday or Tuesday, officials said. They said school maintenance workers have made temporary repairs to the boiler and it is operating. The workers are considering ways to make sure the boiler is ready for next fall.

Yesterday, Superintendent Raleigh Buchanan said the mother of a Bradford Elementary student contacted him with concerns about the lack of heat. Buchanan said the boiler had to be shut down on Monday after a water leak was discovered.

Buchanan said he assured the woman that children were not sitting in frigid classrooms and that as of yesterday the heat was on. He said the woman was particularly concerned because MCAS testing is taking place this week. She was worried about the comfort of children being tested.

"We would not put kids in conditions that would be unbearable," Buchanan said.

It was the second time this year that a Haverhill school had a problem with its boilers. In January, Haverhill High School had to cancel classes for a day after custodians arriving before the start of school discovered a flooded boiler room caused by a leaky water pipe that fed the boilers.

Bradford Elementary Principal Michael Rossi said it was slightly cooler in the building on Monday and Tuesday, but that there were no complaints from students or staff.

"Had it been freezing in here we would have looked at other options, including canceling school, but we weren't even close to that," Rossi said.

He said he was prepared to send a letter home to parents about the lack of heat, but when the boiler began working again yesterday he decided against it. He said fourth-graders took the MCAS long composition test Tuesday, while third-graders took the reading test yesterday and are completing it today.

Maintenance Director Jeff Dill said he turned the boiler off on Monday to avoid putting any added stress on it and was able to turn it back on yesterday. He said whatever repairs might be needed will take place this summer and that at this time of year schools are preparing to turn off their heating systems.

Buchanan said he will look into any warranty that exists on the boiler in the event any needed repairs or replacement would be covered.

Bradford Elementary has students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The school is on Montvale Street in Bradford.

In the case of the Haverhill High breakdown in January, school officials said the boilers shut down automatically to prevent being damaged, as they were designed to do, after sensing a drop in water pressure. Along with the necessary repair to the leaky pipe, maintenance workers had to check each of the high school's 140 heating units before the heat could be turned back on. The high school has received a $30 million renovation in the last five years, including the addition of a new heating system.

Buchanan said it is not unusual to have a boiler leak at a school as new as Bradford Elementary, which opened in 1998.

"I've had boilers almost a half century old work fine while others that are almost brand-new have problems," he said.


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