SMUHSD climate control policy: Too cool for comfort

Ray Chang / Aragon Outlook

In a letter from Kevin Skelly, the San Mateo Union High School District Superintendent, the district informed Aragon staff at the beginning of November that teachers will no longer be able to regulate their classroom’s temperature due to the new sustainability policies.

“There are many reasons for this initiative,” Skelly said in his letter. “It saves money, it demonstrates responsible stewardship of community tax dollars and it makes us good role models in terms of environmental responsibility to our students.”

Instead of teachers controlling each classroom’s temperature, one heating system will now regulate all classroom temperatures. Unless there is a special event, the system will run from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The temperature for heating will be 68 degrees fahrenheit, and the air conditioning temperature will be 74 degrees fahrenheit.

Some teachers are already feeling the effects of this change.

“One thing I get,” said English teacher Robynne Francis, “is people coming in and then needing to leave to go to their locker to get a sweatshirt, or coming in and then needing to pull out a giant blanket, which then people want to share, and that’s when it gets out of hand.”

Other teachers have found that the new rule is making classes too cold for comfort, which resulted in them having to get their classroom’s temperature fixed.

“It’s just too cold,” said English teacher Dena Johnson. “My classroom has been fixed. It’s been warm for the last three days, but up until then it was too cold. And I know lots of teachers have really cold classrooms, students are cold, and I have a heater because my classroom was so cold.”

According to some students, there has also been a noticeable change in temperature during sports practices.

“It’s been really cold this past week, but it’s also kind of good because it cools us down,” said junior basketball player Galia der Abrahamian.

“It’s just too cold. My classroom has been fixed. It’s been warm for the last three days, but up until then it was too cold. And I know lots of teachers have really cold classrooms, students are cold, and I have a heater because my classroom was so cold.”

In addition to being more environmentally-conscious and responsible, this plan was also created in an effort to save money and energy.

“The most tangible measure they have given us is to reduce our use of gas and electricity by 25 percent,” Skelly wrote. “If successful, this would cut our utility bill by over half a million dollars.”

As a result, policy changes are not exclusively limited to heating and cooling systems. For example, staff will no longer be able to have their own personal appliances, such as microwaves and refrigerators, in their classrooms anymore.

“These appliances collectively use a lot of energy,” Skelly wrote. “It doesn’t seem prudent or appropriate to continue to allow these individual appliances … This also helps to get employees to connect with their fellow colleagues and get up and move around.”

Some teachers and students, however, are apprehensive about the ban on personal appliances. Teachers will now have to rely on staff rooms for microwaves, water boilers, refrigerators and other electric devices, which has led to increased foot traffic.

“I just don’t think it’s a big deal for people to have small appliances and coffee makers or hot water boilers or anything like that in the classroom,” Johnson said. “There’s already lines for the microwave, and everybody would be trying to plug in their hot water tea kettles and all of those kinds of things.”

The appliances in classrooms are also convenient for students.

“It’s nice knowing who has a microwave so I can microwave my food,” said senior Sonia Chan. “And it’s inconvenient for [teachers] to go somewhere that has a microwave if they already had one in their room.”

These new rules are just the beginning for similar changes at Aragon. New rules regarding recycling and water conservation will be introduced and implemented more strongly than in the past.

“Professionally,” Skelly wrote, “we have a responsibility to opportunities for our students to make not just the world, but each of our campuses, a better place.”

Posted by Bridget Johns

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