Weeks Without Hot Water For An East Tennessee School

By: Rob Pratt
By: Rob Pratt

Hamblen County (WVLT) -- If you're a parent, chances are you worry about the germs your kids encounter at school, especially in light of the recent reports of Shigellosis and Staph infections.

Just imagine what it's like at one area school, where for weeks there's been no hot water in the bathrooms.

That school is Hillcrest Elementary in Morristown.

There are plenty of sinks in the restrooms at Hillcrest Elementary, but you can’t use the hot water because there isn’t any.

In fact, there hasn't been any for a couple of weeks and school officials say it will be at least a two more weeks before the problem is fixed.

"There has been a waterline that broke at Hillcrest School and we are in the process of addressing that issue,” said Brenda Dean, Asst. Director of Schools in Hamblen County.

The waterline that broke is beneath the main hallway.

Since it happened, there has been plenty of anti-bacterial and anti-viral soap, but to parents like Amanda Lane who has a daughter in first grade and a son in kindergarten, that's not enough.

Especially with colds going around and them doing the sneezing and stuff, they definitely need hot water in the schools," Lane said.

You might assume that schools are required to have hot water in bathrooms and if they don't, the health department will step in.

But Tennessee Department of Health Environmental Specialist Bob Hamilton says that's not the case."

"The Department of Education's guidelines do not have hot water as a requirement," he said. “The Tennessee Department of Health inspects the public school system as a complimentary inspection. We don't have any enforcement authority for the schools."

One exception is the kitchen where like any food-service operation, the Health Department can shut down a school cafeteria."

There is plenty of hot water in the Hillcrest kitchen thanks to a separate hot water supply, but can the 560 pairs of hands that eat there really be clean with no hot water to wash them?

“To be hot enough to truly kill germs would be a dangerous temperature for anyone,” Dead said, “but we do want to restore hot water to those restrooms."

Restoring the hot water will involve fixing that ruptured line beneath the floor which is expected to take a couple of weeks.

We wondered how many schools in Tennessee don't have any hot water in their bathrooms.

A spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Health told us that since there is no requirement, there's no reason to keep any data of how many schools don't have hot water.


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