Jenks Public Schools, ONG battle gas leak at middle school
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jenks Public Schools has made virtual learning an option for all its secondary students.
However, due to a gas leak at Jenks Middle School, all Jenks Public Schools’ seventh and eighth grade students have been forced into distance learning since Nov. 13.
The school district sent out an emailed letter to all parents and guardians of Jenks Middle School students this past weekend after another failed test last Friday at hands of Oklahoma Natural Gas.
The letter was written by Jenks Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Stacey Butterfield and Jenks Middle School Site Principal Dr. Nick Brown.
This is what the letter said:
“We share your frustration concerning the gas outage at Jenks Middle School. This issue has taken far too long to resolve. We desperately want our students back in the building for in-person learning, and we know how difficult this has been on our students and families. This situation ranks as one of the most frustrating maintenance issues the district has faced.
The repair is taking much longer than expected due to the sheer size of the Middle School and the degree of difficulty involved in passing a final pressure test. The contractor began working to identify the leak(s) on Nov. 12. Unfortunately, with JMS being the largest single building in the district, there are miles of gas lines running under and inside the building. These lines are in the slab of the building, mechanical closets, walls, classrooms, science labs, restrooms, cafeteria, offices, etc. Please understand, this is not simply one small leak isolated to one area. There has been a series of micro-leaks throughout the building. Some of these micro-leaks are extremely hard to locate. Every time the gas lines are pressurized to ready the system for a test, additional micro-leaks can be created. Those leaks must be located and repaired before the system can be pressurized again. This cycle of locating, fixing, and testing has been going on for several weeks. Once the gas lines are fully pressurized, all it takes is a drop in pressure of 1/100th of a pound to fail the test. For safety reasons, Oklahoma Natural Gas (ONG) has a zero-tolerance policy. We were hopeful students could return to JMS on Monday, but last week, an ONG pressure test failed. More repairs followed and ONG conducted another pressure check which narrowly failed late in the day on Friday.
This is by no means the first gas leak JPS has faced. Our district has dealt with these issues in the past, but no one ever dreamed we would run into the complexity of challenges, frustrations, and costs associated with this issue at the Middle School. The timing of this “winter leak” creates different challenges as well. If the building were without heat for only a couple of days, the classrooms could return to a comfortable temperature in a short period of time. However, now that the heat has been turned off for several weeks, it will take much longer to warm the entire building. On average, the building temperature hovers around 55 degrees. Classrooms and offices range from the upper 40s to low 50s in the morning. Classrooms located on the north side of each wing warm up much slower than classrooms on the south side due to the position of the sun.
In listening to parent concerns about the disconnect between home and school because of the pandemic and gas outage, this week, Middle School teachers will begin sending regularly scheduled team newsletters for families. These newsletters will highlight ways that parents can help support their students during distance learning and will provide tips for using the browser-based Canvas platform to monitor student coursework.
Site and district staff members will continue to identify learning gaps created by distance learning during the pandemic and the additional three weeks away from school due to the gas leak. These gaps will be addressed using a variety of tools and strategies available for online and in-person instruction.
We are committed to doing everything in our power to welcome students back on Tuesday following the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday on Monday.”
The Jenks Tribune will continue to update this story as it progresses.