Oakland school officials scramble to turn heat on

December 8, 2010 12:21:43 PM PST
Thousands of students in Oakland are suffering through another chilly day of unheated classrooms. It's been going on for a week and a half now and the rain is leaving them wet and cold. The big chill problem started after the school district's plan to save energy backfired. At least 20 schools are still having trouble of one kind or another with its heating system.

Moravia Thomas is all bundled up for her day at Kaiser Elementary School, where the temperature inside the classroom is pretty much what it is outside the classroom.

The school district turned the heat off over the Thanksgiving break to save money, and when it tried to turn it back on there was no heat at 72 school sites. Thomas' dad Devon Thomas is waiting to see what happens next.

"I'm not really cool with it, but if there is an upside to it, they can put something up in the classroom. I hope the district addresses it sooner than later," he said

Rebecca Weber is mother of four students at Kaiser and she is not cool with the cold classrooms.

"The kids should be warm, there should be heat especially in the winter, and it's getting cold," she said.

The principal at Kaiser, Mel Stenger, says most of the technicians trained to work on steam heating systems have been laid off.

"The boiler is telling the central buildings and grounds feedback that it is on, and it is indeed on, but it's not heating the school," he had.

"We have a lot of older equipment which doesn't take well to being shut down and re-started. It doesn't always come back to full capacity and in other cases parts break, they have to be re-ordered and installed and it created a huge delay," Oakland Unified School District Spokesman Troy Flint said.

The district apologizes for going dark and not being able to snap out of it. This money saving experiment is over.

"It was a well-intentioned plan, but it was a very flawed policy for this specific context and we won't do it again," Flint said.

The school district administration building was hit by this heating problem. It was one of the first buildings to go back on line because it did not require any new parts, as so many of the old heating systems did.

Kaiser may have its heat back by late Wednesday afternoon.


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