Cabrillo Unified School District is working to replace thermostats in classrooms in Cunha Intermediate School’s troubled C Building where teachers have reported extreme temperature problems. The issue came to a head this week when a teacher posted on social media about the cold conditions in her classroom.
Cunha’s C Building reopened only last year. It required extensive repairs following a three-year closure due to water leaks and mold problems. That closure came shortly after the building — built with local bond money — was first opened. But Carrye De Mers, department chair for language arts and reading at Cunha, said heating and ventilation issues persist.
De Mers said teachers who work in the building alerted district staff and site administrators about the issue in July, when they noticed problems with lighting, technology and heat. Some classrooms on the lower level are extremely cold, but most of her department occupies the upper floor, where the issue is overheating and a lack of ventilation.
“When we moved in in July, it was very clear the ventilation wasn’t working,” De Mers said.
According to Cabrillo Superintendent Sean McPhetridge, the heating controls are the source of the problem. He said maintenance staff performed tests on boilers and distribution systems, but realized the thermostats that were installed in the original building are now out-of-date. He said updating the thermostats was not within the scope of work for the contractor that concluded repairs last year.
“This has nothing to do with the building contractor,” McPhetridge said. “This has everything to do with an old legacy system with thermostats that aren’t operating for three or four rooms.”
McPhetridge said the district received a proposal at the end of January to put in updated thermostats and will bring it to the school board for approval this week. In the meantime, the district is providing space heaters to classrooms that have no heat.
If the board approves the contract, McPhetridge will push to begin repairs during next week’s break. He said the district is working to expedite the project, but that it will
likely take more than one week.
“We’ve been working at getting professionals lined up to repair this, but that takes time,” McPhetridge said.
De Mers said she and other Cunha staff communicated the problem to the district’s project manager over the summer and, after that employee left the position, to site managers at Cunha. She said her colleagues heard that the district was working on the problem, so teachers were surprised when they got back from winter break and there was still no movement on the issue.
“I don’t know what happened,” De Mers said. “I was living in a consistently hot classroom and expressing that to my site manager. ... But there was no action.”
McPhetridge said he first heard concerns about heating when the weather got cold this winter.
“We didn’t know what we didn’t know,” McPhetridge said. “I feel terribly for the teachers and the students who have been impacted by this.”
For the really hot days, De Mers keeps fans in the room. She adjusts her classroom environment every morning — opening windows and doors to circulate air — but said it’s hard to control because the heat is always changing.
“A lot more of the day is being spent trying to figure out solutions for the physical classroom environment than should be, and that part is definitely frustrating,” De Mers said.
De Mers said teachers and students are worn out by all of the recent facilities challenges associated with the building and moving in and out of portables and other spaces.
“Part of it is just fatigue,” De Mers said. “A lot of us hung all our hope on, ‘If I can just get back to the C Building.’”