A broken heating system Tuesday at Kenwood Academy High School had students searching for extra layers to stay warm and focused on a day of record-breaking freezing temperatures.
“This morning, we became aware that one of our motors failed, which resulted in our school losing heat circulation,” Chicago Public Schools said in a letter to parents of the school.
Students, teachers and staff kept warm by bundling up in their winter hats, gloves and scarves. Some had brought blankets, while others wore their gym uniforms underneath their clothing for an extra layer of warmth, according to freshman Morgan Jackson.
“It was freezing,” Jackson said. “You could see your breath if you were by the windows. People with off-campus lunch were going home just to warm up.”
Heat was restored about 4 p.m., just before the school day ended at 4:15 p.m., school officials said.
“Our principal came on the intercom to let us know the heat was on, and everybody started cheering,” Jackson said.
According to a Chicago Fire Department spokesman, no one was evacuated and CPS building department crews worked on the issue.
School officials said they checked temperatures in the school multiple times throughout the day and determined them to be safe.
Sydney Weathersby, a junior, said the biggest challenge was staying focused while taking REACH assessments, which track students’ progress throughout the year.
“I doubt they got an accurate read and think they should have just waited until tomorrow,” Weathersby said. “It was just hard to focus and function throughout the day. My hands were shivering, my nose was running and I felt like I was getting sick.”
Taylor Halliburton, a senior, said some of the coldest classrooms were relocated to the auditorium or theater, where temperatures hadn’t dropped as drastically.
“A 60-degree classroom was considered one of the warmer ones,” Halliburton said.
She added that she lives with anemia, so she was worried about getting too cold throughout the day.
“My nose got red, my teeth would chatter and it was hard to focus,” Halliburton said. “But I really appreciate our principal for keeping us informed throughout the day and that they didn’t waste time addressing this.”
The heater failure at Kenwood came on a day of record cold in Chicago.
By 3:30 p.m. the temperature in Chicago reached a high of 17 degrees, which shattered the previous “lowest high” temperature of 28 set in 1995, the weather service said.
A recorded temperature of 7 degrees at O’Hare on Tuesday morning broke a record low set in 1986, the weather service said.
Wednesday should feel “substantially warmer” compared to Tuesday’s temperatures, according to a weather service spokesman. Chicago should see highs in the upper 20s with a “lowest maximum” of 21 degrees.