On Thursday, January 24, New Rochelle High School Interim Principal Joseph Starvaggi sent the following message to parents and guardians:
This is New Rochelle High School informing you that there was an evacuation today at approximately 10:30 AM. Unfortunately, students and staff had to evacuate into the rain for about 25 minutes. This was caused by routine maintenance on our heating system which created steam due to the cold weather. This procedure is performed regularly, however, this time it triggered the alarm. Today was a testing day, so students who were in the building for testing, were allowed an additional 25 minutes to complete their tests. We are very sorry for the inconvenience.
In response to a request from a community member for more information, Director of Facilities Carl Thurnau provided this further explanation and response on Friday, January 25:
The statement is accurate. There was a heating complaint in the area of the library. One potential cause of no heat can be a system that has become air-bound or air-locked. This air lock prevents hot water from properly circulating through the system to provide heat. One of our HVAC technicians performed a routine maintenance procedure that involves opening valves at points in the system which will allow any air in the system to escape. There is also a certain amount of hot water that will be released with the air. This is called a blow down procedure. On this occasion, when the air/water mixture was released, it vaporized in the cold crawlspace, turning to steam which then set off a smoke alarm.
I have advised our staff that in the future, any necessary blow downs will be performed after school, and with the fire alarm in standby for that short duration to prevent any re-occurrence of this issue.
I will put a ticket in the system regarding this event.
As a reminder, members of the community can report any health or safety issues with the District's reporting system found here.