'Beyond frustrating': Multiple HISD elementary, middle schools having heater issues, district says

The heater problems come after multiple districts across the Houston area, including HISD, closed due to freezing temperatures.

Thursday, January 18, 2024
HISD schools dealing with heater issues Wednesday, district says
Houston ISD said Pershing Middle and Harvard Elementary were among the schools having heater issues Wednesday after reopening during the freeze.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As we continue dealing with freezing temperatures, multiple Houston ISD schools are coping with heater problems on Wednesday, according to the district.

Students and parents said classrooms in at least 20 HISD schools didn't have heat on Wednesday.

This comes as students return to class after HISD and other Houston-area districts closed Tuesday due to the Arctic blast and the icy road conditions it brought.

HISD acknowledged that some schools experienced heating issues but declined to provide a number. It came during a districtwide testing day.

"Technicians are working to address problems with the heaters at Harvard Elementary School and Pershing Middle School. Our operations team is sending portable heaters to those schools now while crews work to fix the problems," HISD said in a statement early Wednesday.

In addition to those schools, Henry Middle School reportedly had a boiler and electrical system go out, along with a burst pipe. The school had an early dismissal Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. as a result.

Port Houston and Love Elementary schools are also dealing with heating issues. Students at both were dismissed early at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Love Elementary School in the Heights reportedly had one classroom as cold as 43 degrees.

Pablo Lumbea said when he dropped off his child, he asked administrators what the district planned to do about the lack of heat.

"I asked if there had been any follow-up from HISD, and the only follow-up they were getting was to ask how the testing proceeding is. No questions about heating," Lumbea said.

He ended up bringing space heaters back to the school for his child's classroom and messaged other parents, asking them to chip in, too.

"I went over there expecting it to be some small heating issue in part of the building, but as soon as I walked in, I saw every kid walking by in their coat and winter hat. It was freezing in there," Lumbea said.

He's hoping the district has a better plan for Thursday.

"It's beyond frustrating and really unbelievable this is elementary school - these are 6-year-olds," Lumbea said.

Students at Henry Middle, Port Houston, and Love Elementary schools were dismissed early as classrooms faced heating problems, some enduring indoor temperatures as low as 43 degrees.

Eyewitness News also learned the heat was out at DeBakey High School, which didn't release students early.

"You can't focus on the questions. You can't focus on anything except how cold your face, hands, and feet are," Valerie Morales, a sophomore at DeBakey, said.

Despite the cold temperatures, testing continued at most of the affected schools, including Pershing Middle School.

"We just got a whole bunch of jackets, and we put them on, and we just shared some," Kaeden Gilmore, a Pershing student, said.

"I feel like nobody should come to school because it's too cold for that," another Pershing student, Dikayla Morgan, said.

During a Tuesday night meeting, HISD Superintendent Mike Miles said he regretted closing schools during this week's icy weather, vowing that he's "not going to make the same mistake again."

Miles defended his decision to keep schools open Wednesday, even without working heat.

"If, on the whole, it's below 60 degrees and it stays that way for three hours or so, that's probably too cold. And some people would say that's not cold enough," Miles said.

Miles reportedly compared teachers to first responders, considering them essential workers.

A teacher, Daniel Santos, was present at the meeting and confirmed the comments.

He is a member of the Houston Federation of Teachers and said he disagrees with Miles' comments -- reiterating the safety of students and staff should come first.

Miles' decision is drawing the ire of several parents Eyewitness News spoke with.

"It's easy to make the decision when you're home, when you're at home when you have heat, you know, if you're in an office building that has heat," Morales' mother, Nancy Torres, said.

Port Houston School parent Jackie Garcia said they only got about 10 minutes heads up of the early dismissal and had to rush to make it on time.

"We were at an appointment with my mom and had to drop everything to pick up the kids out of nowhere," Garcia said.

HISD released the following statement:

"As of (Wednesday night), the heating systems in most HISD schools are working well. Superintendent Mike Miles just finished another meeting this evening with the Division Superintendents, members of the operations team, and other senior leaders. At this time, we have no plans to cancel classes at any of our schools tomorrow. (HISD's) dedicated plant operators and maintenance teams are working alongside outside contractors at a relatively small number of campuses to fix problems with boilers or broken pipes. Crews will continue to work through the night. We will keep families informed of any changes that could impact them."