Dye: heat up to 68° at area schools

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Proration has forced one of the county’s three school systems to make cuts – not to personnel, but to the temperature inside classrooms.

Covington County School Superinten-dent Sharon Dye told The Star-News Friday that thermostats in the system’s 15 schools were set at 65 degrees in the early weeks of February, but were raised last Thursday to 68 degrees in light of the week’s cold weather.

“It’s cold everywhere,” Dye said Friday. “The buildings are cold, and we have raised the thermostats to where it is between 68 and 70 inside the classroom.”

In a letter published in The Star-News Saturday, the writer complained about the classroom temperatures and alleged that the county had an employee charged with regulating thermostats.

“We have maintenance people who do that,” Dye said. “In fact, we did a study of all the thermostats inside the schools and found three that weren’t working properly. They’ve been fixed.

“We encourage all of our students to dress properly,” she said. “With the children, it may even be better that it’s cooler. I’m not an expert, but I would think there would be less colds.”

Dye said outside of salaries, utility bills are the highest expense a system faces.

“We are limited with what we can do with our funds,” she said. “The bulk of our expenses is salaries and benefits. There’s just not a lot we can do to trim other than be conservative and save where we can.”

Dye said the forecast for next year doesn’t appear to hold any hope for additional revenue.

“It’s a given our budgets next year will be cut,” she said. “We have to do what we can do.”

In the Andalusia city schools, Superintendent Dr. Beverly McAnulty said the thermostats at the high school and middle school are set on a “management system,” which means they are mechanically set on a range from which deviation is not allowed.

At the elementary school, the thermostat was set back 1 degree.

“I read somewhere that 1 degree can save 3 percent on your bill,” McAnulty said. “We’ve had a push all year for energy conservation. That’s something that’s within our control to do something about, and our teachers have worked really hard.”

McAnulty said the halls at AES aren’t heated and there is one “problem room” at the high school.

“It sits on the back side and doesn’t get sun,” she said. “We’ve up-ed the temperature in that room to accommodate it, but no where is it set any higher than 72 degrees.”

In Opp, the situation is the same. Superintendent Michael Smithart said his system has not made any temperature adjustments due to proration, that his systems operate between a low of 65 degrees and a high of 72 degrees.