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Joel Barlow Buzzes Over Electrical Issue

A Joel Barlow High School student sits in the computer lab, typing away at a school report. Suddenly, the power drops and the screen goes black. The work is gone. It was not saved.

This scenario has become increasingly common at Barlow over the years, according to Head of School Tom McMorran . "When it's at its worst, it's a fairly minor inconvenience," McMorran said. "We've countered that by training the kids to save [their work] under a title right away and then the auto-save kicks in every 10 minutes or so."

The source of these brief power failures, or brownouts, has the school's buildings and grounds director Walter Czudak in a quandary. Some electronic equipment has burned out prematurely, he said, and he's not sure whether the power failures were the culprit.

The 1955 building had extensive electrical work done several years ago using three separate contractors that many have claimed used "value engineering" as an excuse to cut corners. The schools ended a civil litigation over the matter in 2007, which settled disputes on both sides, according to Region 9 school board Chairman Mark Lewis.

The current electrical conundrum has school officials wondering whether this problem is related. It's not caused by storms. And Connecticut Light & Power confirmed that the power line coming into the school works fine.

The issue now is finding where the problem lies. Barlow is scheduled to have an electrical contractor do a complete maintenance check to ensure that everything is functioning properly. "It's an issue," McMorran said. "Electricity is a big portion of our budget."

School officials are concerned about the headroom, where expensive servers handle the school's demand for electronic information. McMorran said, "It's probably time to go through and make sure all the transformer boxes and all the wiring is correct and everything. "

Does this electrical concern bother you? Or is it just another quirk at the school? Let us know your thoughts!

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