Schools Concerned About Repairs, Portables In Cold Weather
by Aundrea Cline-Thomas
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - From heaters breaking down to buses that won't start, when the receipts and overtime have been tallied from the last arctic blast, the cold weather has been very costly for Metro Schools.
Officials with Metro Nashville Public Schools said the total additional cost from the polar vortex in the first part of January cost the district more than $132,000 out of the operating budget.
With this second blast of sub-freezing temperature, many principals have been looking for ways to keep students warm and keep the additional costs down.
They said the biggest offender for both issues is the portable classrooms.
The portable for 3rd and 4th grade special needs students at Westmeade Elementary School has been empty for now and will stay that was as long the frigid temperatures stick around.
"I've gone ahead and moved them (inside the school) with the weather as cold as it is right now," said Westmeade principal Stephen Breese.
Like many Metro Schools, Westmeade is over capacity, requiring them to utilize six portable classrooms, but the temperatures in the stand-alone buildings can be much colder than in the school itself.
"Sometimes I just let them keep their coats on because it's that security," said music teacher Gay Hollinswiggins.
Since everyone can't fit in the main building, students and teachers have to dress accordingly – and they constantly have to go in and out of the elements as they go in and out.
"We don't wear blue jeans. I (have) plenty of corduroy, vests, scarves (and) layers. That's how you need to dress," said Hollinswiggins.
While the weather has caused heating and plumbing issues all across the district in the last two weeks, the heaters in the portables are especially finicky.
"We can get here and a portable heater can be down. A classroom heater can be down," Breese said. "The hard part is this time of year it takes two (heaters) to run (portables), so both have to be working. Typically, both units will not heat when the temperature gets down."
They said the classrooms themselves are not as well insulated as the main school.
"The kids just adapt to it," said Hollinswiggins.
Officials said there are just over 350 portables across Metro Schools.