Breaking News
More () »

Gas leaks, no heat, floods: Persistent problems keeping DC students home

Burroughs Elementary students are back in school Monday after they were forced to learn from home Thursday and Friday because of a gas leak.

WASHINGTON — Burroughs Elementary School students are back in the classroom Monday after a gas leak sent them home Thursday and Friday.

Parents said these are persistent problems.

“In one month, we've now lost three days of in-person instruction due to, I guess, poorly maintained infrastructure," Mariana Gomez said.

She has two kids at Burroughs.

Most recently, the school's principal said in a letter to parents that malfunctioning boilers created a gas leak Thursday, causing carbon monoxide to permeate throughout the school.

Because of the leak, students and staff were also forced to learn from home Friday.

"Children have already suffered a great deal of learning loss. We cannot afford to be losing in-person instruction," Gomez said. "So if the building is not going to be safe, then we need to find a new site, and it needs to be local."


One parent shared a letter with WUSA 9 that the school sent Sunday evening. In it, the school's principal said that crews were able to make the necessary repairs over the weekend and that no carbon monoxide was detected any longer.

“I'm extremely frustrated because I feel like they're avoidable," Gomez said.

In the first email about the leak, the school's principal wrote, “While the safety of our students and staff remains paramount for us all, please accept our apologies for the unfortunate disruption to your family’s schedule and your child’s in-person learning experience."

Gomez said she believes the teachers and staff at Burroughs are doing their best, but she is not satisfied with the district's response.

She said this boiler room malfunction isn't the first issue so far this year.

“We had a boiler flood earlier in the year where we got a frantic phone call in the middle of the morning to come pick up our children. They had to leave; the building wasn't safe because there's been a flood," Gomez said.

Credit: Burroughs Elementary
Burroughs Elementary's principal addresses the recent gas leak.

She and another parent said DC Public Schools' solution to that boiler room breakdown was to put space heaters in some of their kids' classrooms.

They said they were told a fix to the HVAC system could take up to 22 weeks.

WUSA 9 is waiting to hear back from DCPS on that specific issue.

“I am extremely concerned," Gomez said. "I love Burroughs; I love the teachers and administrators. It's an amazing community. Unfortunately, I don't feel like the city has provided a safe learning environment for students or teachers."

She said it was time for a long-term fix instead of a band-aid.

Gomez said she's privileged to be able to work remotely if the school calls in the case of an emergency like last week. But, she worries about parents that can't leave their jobs at the drop of a hat, asking how they're making sure they can get paid and take care of their kids.

WUSA 9 also asked DCPS if they have plans to modernize the school and permanently fix some of these issues – and we're waiting to hear back.

Before You Leave, Check This Out