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June 10, 2005

ARCHIVE: Hot Schools


Most of Clark County's more than 250,000 students have wrapped up their last day of the school year. As KNPR's Ky Plaskon reports, when the students leave that's when schools really heat up.

PLASKON: Teachers spend thousands of dollars of their own money to teach in overcrowded classrooms without enough text books. They just make do. But some school conditions aren't so tolerable.

ANONYMOUS: We all left, we couldn't work.

PLASKON: A Clark County School district teacher who feared retribution for speaking out says the problem is heat. When the students leave, so does the cool air. The air conditioning is left on at her school for only about 15 minutes after the students leave. And its worse this time of year.

ANONYMOUS: But at the end of the year there is a lot of work to do and so teachers work longer than that.

PLASKON: Hours longer. Superintendent Carlos Garcia says its part of an energy conservation plan.

GARCIA: The reason for that is that some systems when you turn it on it turns on the entire school. They don't just turn on one room. If it was a question of turing on just one room then we wouldn't have a problem with that. But when you are cooling an entire district that is 63,000 square feet and we are supposed to cool the whole thing because two people are in the building, we just can't do that.

PLASKON: But its not just a couple of people exposed to the summer heat says Mary Holloway, president of the Clark County Education Association

HOLLOWAY: You have to just drive by a school an hour or two after or before and see how many cars are in the parking lot.

PLASKON: She has been hearing the same complaint for 20 years in Clark County and its not just complaints. It's signs of sickness.

HOLLOWAY: People who are out in the heat for long periods of time, those conditions make you sick. Heat can kill you.

PLASKON: She says the air condition should be kept on until 5 oclock. To have it shut off as a cost saving measure is demoralizing for teachers she says when they see the district spend 14 million dollars on a building for the administration, like it did recently.

HOLLOWAY: Its kind of ironic, they are buying this big huge new building and you go into some of the older classes and there are classrooms with leaks.

PLASKON: But Garcia says the deal for an administration building on west Sahara was too good to turn down, and administrative staff, have tough working conditions too.

GARCIA: People say that I don't know how you guys do it, the square footage per person, that's just not healthy and we need to be responsible for our employees.

PLASKON: Though the recently purchased building frees the district from expensive leases, he says it won't free up money that could be used to help the teachers in classrooms. Its money designated only for administration.

GARCIA: The funds that are going to be used here are funds that we were going to spend anyway. So it is a wash.

PLASKON: Holloway agrees, teachers won't see any benefits.

HOLLOWAY: No I don't think it is going to help, but I sure do see a lot of grumblings from teachers about how they spend the money on the building."

PLASKON: Operations managers for the Clark County School district that control the air conditioning in classrooms say that what may help are the 11 new schools the district hopes to open before next school season. Those buildings are more efficient, meaning the will be cooler. But Holloway of the education association says teachers tend to see the same problems with new buildings as in the old ones. Classrooms are too hot in the new buildings too.

Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR

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