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Cool weather sparks early decision to heat schools

October 07, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

As school officials face decisions about when to heat or cool schools each season, they also face flak.

Since temperatures were expected to be low last Friday, school officials last Wednesday decided to start turning on heat, said Dennis McGee, the school system's director of facilities management.

Friday's low temperature was recorded at 32 degrees and its high was recorded at 57 degrees, according to weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site.

The school system's crews, which worked through the weekend, turned heat on in all but two county schools by Monday afternoon, McGee said.

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Funkstown Elementary School and North Hagerstown High School were waiting to have their heat turned on Monday.

Typically, heat is turned on at schools around Oct. 20, but Friday's temperature was a record low for the first week of October, McGee said.

Making the call can be tricky, he said, because a hot day could creep in after an unseasonably cold day and once the heat is turned on, it stays on. The same is true with air-conditioning systems.

"There's always the chance that you get caught in air-conditioning season with a cold day," he said.

McGee said all of the school system's 43 schools have heating systems, but seven of the system's schools do not have air-conditioning.

Schools typically are air-conditioned beginning in mid-May, he said.

"Every year during transition times, it's the same thing," McGee said.

He said complaints about cold temperatures in schools came in Friday from parents with students at Pangborn, Maugansville and Salem Avenue elementary schools.

Those schools have not yet been renovated. They get drafty and their plate-glass windows do not retain heat as well as newer window panels, he said.

On an average 55-degree day, schools generally can heat themselves, between the cafeteria ovens and the heat generated by bodies bustling through their hallways, he said.

Schools that get heated first include Cascade Elementary School and Hancock schools because they are on mountains, and Marshall Street School because of its students' sensitivities, he said.

McGee said turning on the heat takes a few days.

Some heating systems use the same pipes as cooling systems, he said, and pipes need to be flushed before boilers are prepped for heating, he said.

McGee expects all schools to have heat by tonight.

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