Coffee Pots, Mini-Fridges, and Fans! Oh My!

Who knew that the in the fight to conserve energy, coffee pots were the enemy.  Coffee pots and fans.  But common sense will prevail.  Because common sense governs everything PWCS does (that was sarcasm for the sarcasm challenged).

At the end of the school year last year the school division tossed a contract on energy efficiency at the school board for approval.  Anything that gets proposed in the last few school board meetings is cause for suspicion, in my opinion, as the school division has the rather nasty habit of putting really important things on the agenda for those meetings in the hopes that no one will pay attention.

Ever wonder when the school division decided to lower academic expectations for our children to the state minimum?  That was at the last school board meeting of the 2010 – 2011 school year.  So I’ve learned to watch the school board meetings in May and June carefully.

When the energy conservation contract came up for debate it raised many concerns, not just to me but apparently among our school board members as well.  The contract was proposed in a meeting that ran well past midnight, and voting on it was pushed back to the next school board meeting as members couldn’t focus so late in the night.

There were several fishy things about the contract.  Apparently it had been sitting on someone’s desk at the Hill for months and had not been brought forward until the end of the school year.  It made promises that sounded too good to be true – like millions in utility savings each year from simple changes in personal behavior.  School board members were assured that the energy savings would more than make up for the cost of the contract and hiring 3 new employees to facilitate energy efficiency in school buildings.

Whenever something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

In the debate over the contract last June, our school board members expressed concerns about the personal behaviors that would be changed in the name of energy efficiency.  One member was concerned that teachers would be forced to spend time unplugging everything in their rooms each night and then plugging them back in the next day, as that’s what teachers in other school divisions under similar contracts have reported.  She was assured that her concerns were unwarranted.

In last night’s discussion of the new / revised policy, the school board attorney advised the board that the vote was just for the policy.  Not to assail the attorney’s logic, but the policy says that it must be carried out in accordance with the regulation.  To me that means when you approve the policy you also approve the regulation.  Unless he meant that regulations are irrelevant, in which case why do we have literally hundreds of regulations?  If regulations really are irrelevant, why have them at all?  Common sense must prevail, and common sense tells me that the school board wasn’t just approving the policy, they were also approving the regulation, and the regulation is where the teeth are.

Just a quick note – we’re not stupid.  We see through semantic games like that.  And playing semantic games like that breeds mistrust and discontent.

Now we know what simple changes in personal behavior that energy efficiency contract intended.  In lieu of how quickly and easily the list of prohibitions in the regulation was derived, I suspect the company has a program they follow and well knew exactly what they’d be going after first.  And I suspect they deliberately chose not to disclose that list to the school board because they knew it would engender controversy and jeopardize their contract.  Just a reminder, honesty is a good thing.

Personal appliances like coffee pots, fans, mini-fridges, and space heaters are prohibited.  Every electronic device in the classroom must be turned off at the end of the day. Classroom temperatures will be kept to a maximum of 68 degrees in the winter and 74 – 78 degrees in the summer.  HVAC systems will be turned off on comfortable weather days with windows and doors in classrooms opened for ventilation.

Again, common sense.  None of these items sounds too terrible at face value, until you start to look at them in more detail.

I can’t live without my morning coffee, and my morning coffee frequently turns into my mid-morning, lunch, and mid-afternoon coffee.  If you work in an office you just walk to the break room and get a cup of coffee whenever you need it.  That option isn’t available to teachers as they have 30 – 38 students that they’re responsible for and they can’t leave their classrooms to get a cup of coffee. Sorry teachers – no coffee for you!

I’m sure the food police will be thrilled as coffee has to be on their list of bad foods.

Anyone who has ever worked in a large office knows how long the lines for the microwave can be at lunch time.  In an office environment a long wait at lunch is annoying.  In a school a long line at the microwave means you may not get your lunch.  Our teachers don’t have the luxury of being able to be 3 minutes late from lunch because they have a classroom full of kids waiting for them.  They get 25 minutes, 20, if you count time spent getting the kids to and from the cafeteria.  And with only 1 or 2 microwaves, that line could mean the difference between eating or not eating.  Many school PTA’s bought mini-fridges and microwaves for their teachers, out of concern for teachers whose schedules didn’t allow for a lunch break, or for teachers who chose to tutor students during lunch and couldn’t leave the room.  Oh well.

Space heaters and fans are prohibited because teachers who use them are trying to adjust the temperatures of their rooms and they really should be going through facilities rather than taking care of things themselves.   So teachers, if your room is too hot or too cold, report it to the Principal who, hopefully, will report it to facilities.  Facilities will conduct a survey to determine if the temperature in your room really is outside of mandated temperature ranges (68 in the winter, 74 – 78 in the summer), and, if your room temperature is deemed to be outside of the mandated norms, then you’ll be put in the list to have your room’s HVAC system adjusted.  Meanwhile, no fans or space heaters.  Because that would undermine the temperature and environmental data being gathered in the school.

All electronic devices must the turned off at the end of the day.  Not put in sleep mode, but turned off.  My printer doesn’t have an off switch, so turning it off would require unplugging it.   Same with the pencil sharpener, smart boards and any other electronic devices in the classroom.  I guess we now know what our teachers will be doing with that 30 minutes that was added to their contract day last year.

Room temperatures will be kept at 68 degrees in the winter.  That’s actually warmer than I keep my house, so that’s OK.  And if that’s too cold for for you, you can always put on a sweater.

Room temperatures will be kept at 74 – 78 degrees in the summer.  A school division representative actually cited a study which demonstrated that the optimal temperature for learning is 73 degrees as a defense of the 74 – 78 degree range.  I guess PWCS is going for sub-optimal learning.

Kidding aside, can you image being crammed in a 78 degree room with 38 of your closest friends and trying to learn?  Our kids literally sit elbow to elbow in rooms with 38 other students in them.  Imagine trying to learn with you’ve got kids right up against you in a room with no air moving that’s 78 degrees.  Remember, common sense must prevail and fans are prohibited.

On temperate days, as defined by folks at the Hill, HVAC systems will be turned off and windows and doors will be opened to allow cooling and ventilation.  Teachers close their classroom doors, windows, and blinds because open doors and windows distract from learning.  I guess our elementary schools will have to implement silent recess like they have during SOL testing season all year round.

Most of the windows and doors in our schools don’t have screens.  Apparently bees and mosquito borne illnesses are of no concern to PWCS.

Many of our classrooms don’t have windows and their doors only open to interior hallways.  I’m not sure how we’ll cool and ventilate those rooms.

My youngest child is in elementary school.  The window is his classroom is behind the counter the class computers sit on.  I’m 5 feet 5 inches tall,  about average for an adult woman.  I can’t reach the window latch from the floor. I tired a few years ago when one of the classrooms I was in was horribly hot in the middle of winter.  To reach the window I had to climb on a chair and then onto the counter where the class computers sat.  The window must not have been opened for many years because it wouldn’t budge. Another parent climbed onto the counter with me and we both squatted down, locked our fingers under the window, and pulled – all while standing on top of the counter with the computers on it.  The window wouldn’t stay open, so we propped it up with a book.  Closing it at the end of the day was a repeat of the climb on a chair, climb on the counter exercise.  Let’s just hope a teacher doesn’t fall off the counter while she’s trying to open or close the window in her room.

From a million miles away the energy efficiency regulations don’t seem that invasive, until you start thinking about why teachers have coffee pots, microwaves, or mini-fridges in their rooms.  Sure, problems with room temperature should be reported through facilities, but teaches began taking things into their own hands and buying space heaters or fans because facilities wasn’t responsive or didn’t think their concerns were valid.  Opening windows and doors is wonderful in the temperate days, but teachers began closing their windows and doors to prevent distractions.  How many of our classrooms have windows that are adequate for ventilation, assuming they even have windows?

The school board said that common sense must prevail in this policy / regulation.    PWCS is the antithesis of common sense.

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9 Responses to “Coffee Pots, Mini-Fridges, and Fans! Oh My!”

  1. Helicopter Mom and proud of it Says:

    Yes, but on temperate days, open windows lead to increased allergies and asthma. So now we need a 504 to have the windows closed??

  2. rgb Says:

    This is all about adding useless jobs to the central administration; has nothing to do with actual savings; just building an empire of district employees beholden to the Superintendent.

  3. PO'd employee Says:

    My classroom has no windows and is one that opens to a hallway. Also the temp is never right, when I complain, the HVAC people’s response, “well on our computer system the temp says it is ok.” I have had it with this county! Their last concern is students and teachers. Made obvious by hiring 3 people at the hill when classes have 35-38 kids. What is even worse is I have an ‘inclusion’ class with this many and NO help. How can I effectivelly meet the needs of all these kids?! The salaries of these 3 could probably be used to fund many aide positions! The future of the county schools is in trouble.

  4. Brian Gorham Says:

    I personally authored the policy and regulation. For someone I have never spoken with, you seem to be a willing authority on it. Please consider contacting me directly, or offering me a respectful public rebuttal to your many incorrect statements. As a start, the employees working to generate these savings were teachers within pwcs prior to leading this program.

  5. anonymous Says:

    Hey Brian – before you demand respect from others, you might want to try it yourself. You might also want to brush up on your reading skills. The people who write this blog questioned the policy, not you. You responded by attacking them. Not cool.

    If their statements are inaccurate you might want to try correcting those inaccuracies before you bait someone and issue a challenge. There’s a reason parents and teachers in this county HAVE to hide behind cloaks on anonymity. The disrespectful attitude you expressed in your comment is explanation enough.

    The teachers in this county are sick and tired of being treated like dirt. We have fans because our rooms are hot. We have space heaters because our rooms are cold. We don’t bother with facilities because our Principals don’t listen to us and facilities doesn’t care. We don’t have windows to open and can’t reach them or can’t open them when we’re lucky enough to have them. We share our mini-fridges and microwaves with other teachers so that we can collaborate with one another during lunch or work with our students for more than 5 minutes. We don’t waste resources unnecessarily. As a former teacher, you ought to know that.

    • Anon Says:

      You are absolutely correct. The level of disrespect and complete disregard for teachers and students in our county is why we are FORCED to hide our opinions.

  6. Fred Says:

    Coffee pots and fans are not allowed because they use too much power and are not “green”. Meanwhile, they light 7 acres of parking lots at each of the 11 high schools, all night long.

  7. Brian Gorham Says:

    Thanks for your feedback. I stand willing to serve you and am responsible for the implementation of this policy. gorhambj@pwcs.edu. If should experience any direct disrespect or discomfort as a result of our efforts please contact me directly.
    Great point Fred! We’ll work to improve that. Thank you!


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