When the weather outside was frightful, inside Herbert Hoover Middle School it was ... the same.
Temperatures in San Francisco dipped to 40-degree lows the first week of the new year. During at least three days during the cold snap, about a half-dozen classrooms in the 1,174-student school located in the Forest Hill neighborhood were without heat, according to San Francisco Unified School District Chief Facilities Operator David Goldin.
The problem, Goldin said, was the pump broke that supplied heat to six classrooms in the school’s S wing, preventing heat from circulating.
Three days after the district was informed of the cold rooms, the issue was resolved. Heat has been in the six classrooms affected ever since, Goldin said.
“It’s a common problem,” he said of the pump. “We install new stuff, sometimes it’s not put in right, it needs to be tweaked or it just breaks.”
The frigid temperatures, despite the cause, did directly affect the students.
One girl went before the Board of Education to explain that it was hard to work in the cold. The student said she repeatedly asked her teachers to turn up the heat, but was told the only person who could meet her request was on vacation. The temperature for classrooms is set between 68 and 70 degrees on a typical winter day and is controlled by district staff, not individual schools.
Goldin said he was out of the country when the pump broke.
In any given winter week, Goldin said, his team receives roughly two complaints about heat in the districts 115 schools.
Officials with the United Educators of San Francisco, the district’s teachers union, said the number of complaints is much higher.
Allan Brill, a spokesman with the union, said he has 60 pages of complaints related to heating from schools in the past two years. A total of 80 complaints were listed at Hoover.
Also, Everett Middle School reported the entire school was without heat the first week of the month.
“We can’t allow this situation to exist,” Brill said. “The situation is intolerable.”
Chris Lewis, a seventh-grade science teacher at Everett, said the cold days were uncomfortable.
“The kids had jackets and hats on, they were bundled up,” he said, adding that it has never taken more than three days for the district to address freezing temperatures. “It seems like a common recurring problem. Something more signification needs to be done.”