ORANGE - Security guards now monitor the 50 plus year-old boilers at Orange Junior High School, school officials said.

The guards have been on duty since Dec. 13 according to Amity Board of Education Facilities member Jill Ferraiolo.

According to Superintendent of Schools Helene Skrzyniarz the guards are a necessity for school to continue to operate.

"I am not happy about spending the money but it is better than moving the students to alternative locations," Skrzyniarz said

Skrzyniarz said the guards monitor the two working boilers for "flame failure" and sometimes have to press the reset switch multiple times before they will reactivate.

On Dec. 8, 2003 students were sent home around 9:30 a.m. after second period when the two working boilers were not producing enough heat. According to Skrzyniarz the school needs to be heated to 65 degrees to be in session.

Since Dec. 13, 2003 the school district has been in contract with Cognisa Security of New Haven who have been monitoring the boilers 88 hours a week when custodians are not on duty.

Skrzyniarz has repeatedly urged the Amity Board of Education to replace the boilers, which are the original ones when the school was built some 50 years ago.

There are three original boilers for the junior high school. One does not work at all and the other two work "minimally but together function sufficiently," Skrzyniarz said

According to Ferraiolo, so far the board has spent $6,000 for coverage.

They hope to continue to utilize the services through the winter months until April 30.

Ferraiolo said the plan is to use the guards for 88 hours per week at a cost of $15.38 per hour.

The board approved the $6,000 for the work already performed and agreed to pay for the services out of contingency, which had a balance of about $79,600 after hiring University of Connecticut Health Services to perform a health assessment of the three schools.

Board member William Blake of Bethany said he hopes to replenish the contingency fund once a six-month analysis of where the school district is fiscally is completed.

In December of 2002, a leak was found in the underground propane tanks used to fire the boilers 500-gallon tank.

Last March, a Roof and Boiler Committee was convened and worked with architect Dan Weston.

A visual assessment of the Orange and Bethany campus' boilers was performed by Smith Cast Iron Boilers in April of 2003. In the report, it noted the boilers are obsolete and new replacement parts are no longer available. It said there were signs of leakage in the nipples on the return drums as well as indication of leakage at the top supply drums. Replacement was recommended.

The Roof and Boiler Committee voted on a plan to replace the boilers at both junior highs as well as the roof on the Bethany campus. When they took this recommendation to the full board for a vote the board decided instead to get a complete review of the facilities. They are in the process of completing a complete facilities review utilizing the Best Joslin/DRA firm. Once the review is completed the board will need to decide how to move forward with repairs, upgrades and renovations.

Bridget Albert can be reached at balbert@ctcentral.com or 876-6800