High classroom temperatures concern parents
Parents in Yuma Elementary District 1 recently voiced their concerns about high temperatures in some district classrooms, and administrators said the district is working to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Kathleen Scanlon, a parent of two students at McGraw Elementary School and two at Gila Vista Junior High, said that when students enter classrooms nearing 80 degrees after being outside in 115-degree weather, like what was seen in Yuma during the month of August, that is a major concern.
“You can't expect anybody to work in that kind of environment,” she said.
District 1 chief financial officer Kerry Jones said the reason for the fluctuation of temperatures had to do with a test of HVAC systems conducted by Arizona Public Service as a part of its Peak Solutions Program.
For the past two years, District 1 — along with Yuma Union High School District and over 100 other districts across the state — has participated in the program designed to reduce energy costs by reducing peak demand when energy consumption approaches capacity.
On Aug. 28, APS conducted a test with the HVAC system in District 1 schools to measure how much demand reduction would be achieved through their program.
“We found one class that was 84 degrees, so that's not acceptable,” said Jones. “We're looking to see if the controller bumped incorrectly, and if so, we'll modify that and, if necessary, we'll take that classroom out of the equation.
“We had a couple of anomalies and we're addressing those to make sure it doesn't happen again. This one-time test was successful and it is not anticipated another one will be necessary.”
He said while APS conducted tests on District 1's system over the summer, it needed to test the system while students and teachers were in the classroom to get a more accurate reading.
“Demand is reduced by cycling the HVAC systems on and off every 15 minutes,” Jones explained. “During the off cycle, temperatures should increase 3 to 4 degrees and then cool down during the on cycle. Thermostat set points for most classrooms are 74-76 degrees, so this should result in maximum temperatures of 80 degrees for short periods of time.”
Currently, he said, District 1 runs its air conditioning from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 76 degrees, with the capability for personnel to adjust the temperatures between the 74- and 78-degree range throughout the day.
Teachers who come in before 7 a.m. can request an override on the thermostat and get up to two hours of extra time once a day. For regular after-school programs, thermostats are set to run beyond the normal schedule.
Jones said that by participating in Peak Solutions, District 1 anticipates receiving $40,000 to $60,000 in incentive rebates from APS.
Jones said the amount of funds saved from the program could amount to being able to hire one to two additional instructors for the district.
“This also demonstrates the district is committed to our strategic plan goal of using available resources effectively and appropriately, maximizing existing resources and being a good steward of taxpayer dollars. We're looking in every area we have so we can focus those resources in the classroom.”
After having its budget reduced by at least 20 percent over the past five years, District 1 has implemented many cost-saving measures to avoid seeing an impact in the classroom, a particular area of focus being energy savings.
The installation of energy-efficient lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls and intelligent thermostats has provided over $431,000 in energy savings per year, amounting to a projected savings of more than $4 million over 10 years.
Sarah Womer can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.