Friday, January 24, 2014

Letter to CEO re: lack of heat in classrooms

Another horribly cold day in the classroom today. This is an e-mail I just wrote to Ms. Tisha Edwards, BCPSS's current CEO:

Today, as in every day this winter, I walked into my classroom and the heat was broken, and the temperature was 52 degrees. With body heat and air from the classrooms, it will be a little bit better in the afternoon and late morning, but, at the start of the day, the students and I can sometimes see the steam of our breath. For weeks, I have been assuming that the problem would be fixed, but it has not been. A comfortable learning environment should be a right that every student in this system is given. Judging from the conditions of our lack of heat, and others I have read about in the media, the basic right of heat has not been granted to many BCPSS students as they are asked to meet more and more rigorous demands and teachers are evaluated on their ability to meet these demands.

My principal and building manager have both been communicating and advocating about this issue since it began, but, with no progress being made and Baltimore currently in a “Code Blue” cold weather warning and the month of February still on the horizon, I want to make sure this serious issue is being heard from the teacher’s perspective at Central headquarters. I’ve tried several strategies: ignoring it or grinning and bearing it; purchasing space heaters; flexibly allowing students to wear winter gear in class despite this practice violating student uniform rules designed to prevent intruders from entering building; moving classrooms or to the library on the rare days when I don’t need my computer/LCD projector and the building flexibility has allowed it. Personally, I’ve purchased Under Armour heat gear clothing and vests so I can comfortably teach. At some point, however, I worry that my adjustments create a culture of complacency and acceptance of the conditions, though, and I am having an especially difficult time tolerating the frigid air the last two days. Our students deserve more, so, at the very least, I’m going to send this e-mail to document that there has been no heat all winter in my classroom and several others at our school, and this is negatively affecting several aspects of safety, comfort, and learning at the school.

(Our principal) wrote a helpful and detailed explanation about the engineering issues at the school, and, while it definitely assuaged me on a school level that the people who work at our school are doing everything they can to ameliorate the situation, I felt it important to voice concerns to central headquarters from a teacher perspective because, at this point several weeks into the winter, the problem seems to be with central facilities not understanding or responding to the seriousness of a situation.  There’s been no heat all winter in Room 225 and students are cold. It’s not an environment for learning.

Your swift attention to this matter is appreciated.

I tried to highlight some themes that even me, myself, have been complacent with this problem, and I need to do better, and at least report it to central administration whenever it happens.

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