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Oakland energy saving plan backfires

December 7, 2010 5:27:27 PM PST
It's too cool for school at two dozen locations in Oakland after the district tried to save on energy. The plan backfired and now students, teachers and staff are heading into a second week without heat. That policy of turning off heating systems completely has now been officially suspended.

Oakland 4th grader Kimarii McLemore loves school, but she's studying at home today because her school, Henry J. Kaiser is just too cold.

"It was colder than outside, so and I wasn't feeling good. So I came back home," she said.

McLemore 's mom, Kim McLemore, volunteers in the classroom.

"I mean I had long-sleeved shirt, hoodie, jacket, scarf, hat. It was unbearably cold," she said.

According to the district, Kaiser is just one of 25 Oakland Unified schools with a current heating problem. In some cases, it's a matter of one or two classrooms, but at Kaiser it's the whole school. The problem stems from the district's second-year policy of going dark during long breaks.

"They wanted to conserve energy by turning off the heaters during the vacation time. I think they should've done a little investigation to see how those heaters would come back on," school principal Mel Stenger said. "The boiler was on, I could touch it and feel that it was warm, but no warm water was going down the hall into the heaters."

Now on their seventh school day without heat, students and staff have tried to adapt by using space heaters and wearing layers. But 4th grade teacher Doug Feague says the temperature has been a distraction for some students.

"They're more concerned about 'hey, I'm cold right now' than actually learning about 4th grade social studies," he said.

Due to budget cuts, the district has cut back on its maintenance staff, so they initially didn't have enough technicians to turn the heat back on after the long break. Now they don't have enough to fix all the problems that have come up.

At Kaiser, they're waiting for a part for the boiler and hope to have the heat back on by Thursday.


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