Hot for teachers: Volusia classrooms left without air conditioning during summer

Teachers say they're feeling the heat of district's energy-saving plan

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Volusia County teachers work off the clock to prepare for their upcoming school year, but some said it's too hot to work, because the air conditioning doesn't.

"The school district apparently put their air-conditioning modes on unoccupied status or summer schedule, which pretty much means, they're not on," Volusia Teachers Organization president Andrew Spar said.

News 6 obtained pictures of thermostats from a couple of classrooms. One from the end of last month that read 90 degrees. A teacher commented on the picture saying, "88 in my classroom. I only lasted three hours."

"Most schools have numerous numbers of air-conditioning units, so when they're in an energy saving mode, they're saving a fair amount of money during the summer," Spar said.

Spar said the district can reserve specific days for the air conditioning to get turned on, as long as a principal requests it.

"Because a lot of these units are in a non-operational mode during the summer, it's not uncommon that when they turn them back on, that there's some problems," he said.

The Volusia County School District told News 6 that during the summer, they implement an energy cost savings plan. Some areas are put in "occupied mode" for workers who are in school year round.  The rest of the school is put in "unoccupied mode," where air is set back to higher temperature and doesn't cool like it would when occupied. The district said it even turns off equipment like refrigerators and soft drink machines.

The cost savings plan saves the district a half a million dollars over the summer. The district said the money saved can be used for classrooms or for salary increases.
If a teacher wants to return to work before they are contracted to do so, principals must make a request to maintenance for the air to be turned on.

"I think we just need to have a better mechanism in place. So, that teachers can say, 'hey, I want to come out at this time,' and within reason, I think the district should be able to turn on the air conditioning unit," Spar said.

About the Author: