Robbie Owens for CBS 11 News | CBSDFW.COMBy Robbie Owens

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Dallas school officials are defending a decision to keep students on campuses without working heat – saying it is better for students to be safe, in cold classrooms, than warm at home, alone.

“We often also feel like we are not going to release these students just to o home to an empty apartment or an empty house,” says Jon Dahlander, DISD Spokesperson.  “We want to make certain that they are taken care of, that they’re fed, and that if we can provide some level of instruction to them, then, we’re going to continue on with that.”

District officials concede that heating problems that surfaced Tuesday at Esperanza “Hope” Medrano Elementary were not isolated.

Students tell us that the heat hasn’t worked well at JW Ray Elementary for the past two days. But school district officials said that it has been repaired.

“They got the heaters on at the last minute and we got warmer,” says Trevionte McKinney, a 5th grader at the school just north of downtown Dallas.  According to Trevionte, classrooms for the past two days were cold.  The Tuesday morning temperature in Dallas was a bone chilling 22 degrees.

Parents at neither school were told that the heat wasn’t working.

“They should be ashamed of themselves even having the kids come to school knowing it wasn’t [any] heat,” fumed JW Ray parent, LaRon Payne. “That’s ridiculous.”

The heat was also out at JL Long Middle School in Dallas. Workers today could be seen unloading portable space heaters to try and warm individual classrooms.  DISD officials blame the extended cold snap which has taxed district facilities and maintenance crews.

“Boilers will go down and come back up, we are doing the best we can,” says Dahlander.

But, many parents still question why they weren’t told that the campuses were without heat and given the option of taking their children out of the cold classrooms.

“They should have called the parents or they should have cancelled school,” says Danielle Hicks, a mother of two students at Medrano Elementary. “These babies shouldn’t be in school when it’s freezing in there and it’s freezing outside.”

District officials argue that it is no small undertaking to reach all parents during the school day and say their maintenance crews believed that the heating problems would be resolved quickly.

“In this particular situation we had electricity at the school and we were able to bring in some heaters to try to warm things up,” says Dahlander, “so we felt like we had a solution in place and things were moving in the right direction and the building would be heated appropriately.”

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