Parent claims schools lack maintenanceBy Martin Ricard
In September, when Portola and Crestmoor elementary schools were evacuated after several reports of possible gas leaks days following the Sept. 9 gas pipeline explosion, Patrick Flynn had his suspicions.
In both cases, the Fire Department determined that the source of the smells came from the schools' heaters, which hadn't been turned on in awhile.
But, after doing some digging, what he later found disturbed him: The filters in the heaters at Portola were dirty and the heaters were actually leaking gas, and it appeared no one was fixing them. Other devices at Crestmoor, Parkside Intermediate School and the San Bruno Park School District office were deemed hazardous and PG&E told the district it had to disconnect several gas lines until someone fixed the problem, yet it seemed like no one on the school board knew about the problem.
Now, Flynn wants some answers.
"I'm a stationary engineer by trade," said Flynn, who has two children at Portola and one at Parkside. "That PG&E came and shut off equipment and indicated that there had been no maintenance done makes me wonder, 'Is the district doing any maintenance?'"
"I want to see proof," Flynn added.
Flynn brought up the issue at Wednesday's school board meeting, infuriated that the school district didn't make information available sooner about the findings, which were compiled by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and submitted to the district after the gas leak scares.
According to one of the PG&E reports, Flynn said, four heaters at Portola were found to be misfiring and were shown to be putting out formaldehyde.
Those heaters were installed when the school was remodeled in 2004, he said.
"There is a maintenance issue going on in your district," Flynn told the school board at the meeting. "I see this as a very important matter. It is unacceptable that a member of the public has to bring that up."
The board members seemed surprised Wednesday by Flynn's comments. In response to Flynn's claim that the district was behind on maintenance for its heaters, Lynn Orong, the district's associate superintendent of business services, said everything was re-inspected and cleared following the school evacuations.
Orong said the district has since repaired the problems found with the heaters and did everything to keep the children safe after the evacuations.
She added that the board members were informed about the PG&E reports on the Friday following both school evacuations.
Flynn, however, isn't satisfied with that answer.
He said the fact that the district hasn't had a maintenance director for the last three years shows that more problems could be overlooked.
Superintendent Dr. David Hutt oversees the district's maintenance duties for now. But he said the district has a regular maintenance program for its heating and ventilation systems. As for Portola's heaters, Hutt said, the district replaced two of its units within the last three years.
Still, with the district now preparing to spend nearly $20 million in funds from the sale of the former Carl Sandberg site on capital improvement projects, Flynn said, he wants to know whether there might be other possible maintenance issues within the district.
"I want to know so this doesn't happen again," Flynn said.
Copyright ©2010 San Bruno Patch. Published 12/10/2010.