HVAC lukewarm in county schools

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hot conditions in Marshall County's schools were a topic at the school board's meeting Monday, and still a cause for concern Thursday afternoon.

"We've got a lot of hot kids," said board member Harvey Jones Jr. who had added the topic of "thermostats" to the board's agenda.

Giving the monthly report from the Marshall County Education Association, Patty Hill said, "I'm glad you mentioned the thermostats. Maintenance has been called all over the county. It's too hot to be in the gym at Lewisburg Middle School. We're having to do PE in the auditorium" where the air-conditioning is working.

Curt Denton tried to be realistic.

"It's August," he said. "The system is overworked. We go through this every year."

Jones disagreed.

"The thermostats are not working," he said. "Is it Siemens' responsibility, or Sheldon's? We need a plan to resolve this as soon as possible."

Marshall County Commissioner Sheldon Davis, the school system's maintenance chief, could not be reached for comment.

By Thursday morning, Miller confirmed that parents had called the Central Office with complaints about the temperature in the classrooms.

"We've asked the principals for specifics," Miller said Thursday. "We're trying to figure out the problems and get them fixed as quickly as we can. They were supposed to have fixed Chapel Hill Elementary's problem with the cafeteria yesterday."

Whatever was done at CHES Wednesday came too late for Ken Warren's granddaughter, a 4th grader, who spent another miserable day at school, and came home red-faced and sweating, feeling sick.

"We'll have to keep her home from school," Warren exclaimed during a call to the Tribune. He said his granddaughter "loves school" and has been at CHES since kindergarten, but no other back-to-school week has been like this one.

"I don't know how kids can learn in these conditions," Warren said, adding that it was so hot in the building that the computers were giving trouble.

Reached for comment Thursday morning, new CHES assistant principal Dawn Kirby said it was "not too hot in the halls this morning," but said she hadn't been into any classrooms, and also pointed out they hadn't felt the effects of the afternoon sun.

"I believe the thermostats are new," Kirby said.

Jones discussed the thermostats at a budget committee meeting before school started and said he was hearing complaints about how hot the classrooms were from teachers who had been going in to get ready for the upcoming year. Jones was sure the thermostats were new, installed by Siemens as part of the energy-saving upgrades they are doing. He said he understood they were motion-activated, cooling a room to 74 degrees when they sensed the presence of people, and reverting to 80 degrees when the room was empty.

"I hate that there may have been some hot or cold spots," said Siemens representative Kirk Whittington when he was reached late Wednesday. "We're definitely addressing those. Things will be as they're supposed to be when we're finished. There are quite a few new pieces of equipment, and there are new thermostats in different places throughout the district."

In general, Whittington stressed, things are going "extremely well" and both Siemens and the school district are "very happy with our progress."