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Parents miffed space heaters still being used at new Richmond elementary school

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) — Some parents who send their children to Richmond’s Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary are demanding answers after they discovered the school is still using space heaters to keep kids and teachers warm.

The parents said they cannot understand why the newly-constructed school has a problem with its HVAC system.

After dropping off her kindergartner at the school, Belinda McMullen and her other children scurried to get home, out of the cold. Thoughts of heating issues at her son’s school weren’t far from her mind.

“I am very surprised for it to be a brand new school, so they should have things up to date,” McMullen said.

McMullen is one of the parents who told CBS 6 News they had no idea that the school’s HVAC system had a defect. She also had no clue that nearly 40 heaters were used in certain areas before the Christmas break  to keep students and workers warm.

Last week a spokesperson for Richmond Public Schools and a school board member told CBS 6 News that the heaters were no longer in use — even though the HVAC problem hadn’t been permanently fixed.

After seeing the report on CBS 6 News, parents contacted us to say their children’s classes were still being warmed by space heaters.

“They should have just informed the parents. Let us know, so that if anything had happened, we would have known the heaters were in the school,” McMullen added.

CBS 6 News confronted school leaders, asking if they felt they should have told parents that heaters were being used in the beginning.

Dr. Derik Jones, who represents district that includes Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary, said yes.

“They should have been notified, absolutely,” Jones said. “We should have let every parent know that there was a problem and that we were trying to fix it and when we were expecting a solution.”

Jones emphasized that the heating system isn’t completely broken and that the building’s climate is between sixty five and sixty eight degrees.

“It’s not negatively impacting instruction. The teachers are teaching, children are learning. Yes, there are some heaters that have not been collected from the school. Some teachers may be using them for their own personal preference,” Jones explained.

It’s not ideal, but McMullen said she doesn’t want any child to be uncomfortable at the end of the day.

Jones said the city has been working closely with the contractor and that a fix is in sight. He says parents can expect all of the repair work to be done by the early part of next week.

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