We had a new heating and cooling system installed in our school over the summer. The air-conditioning seemed to work great. The heat – not so much. The daily routine now includes multiple visits and calls from every "Goldilocks" in the building letting us know that they are either too hot or too cold, and no one is ever just right. I'm pretty sure that we'll have this all straightened out by………..April.
So, in the meantime, there are classrooms where the teachers and the students have their coats on for the better part of the day. Well, I'm thinking that at least no one will be dozing off in those classes.
The beginning of this week was particularly cold. I know this for two reasons. One being the fact that the wind knocked the power out in the school neighborhood over the weekend and the heat was off, thus lowering the building temperature. This went undetected until Monday morning and, even though it's new, the new system needed time to "warm-up". I must admit that I had my coat wrapped around my legs because the office was very cold.
The second reason that I know this (besides having to walk from the car into the building) is because I have my computer programmed to have the Weather Channel update at exactly 10:45 each day so we can determine whether the students will be going out for recess.
We had a rule regarding the temperature. Had being the operative word here. The rule used to be that if the temperature was above 32° and the feels like temperature were above 32° that they would go out. Unless they were 5th graders. The 5th graders had the option of going out with even lower temperatures if they wanted to, as long as they were dressed appropriately. Now, this applies to all three grades. This also means that there is at least one teacher of the two on lunch duty that are willing to brave these temperatures.
On Monday we had low inside temps and the outside temp was 23°, feels like 17°. We were able to persuade our teacher in charge of 3rd grade lunch to stay in because the nurse had expressed a concern over children with asthma going out in such cold weather. I don't know what the 4th grade did, but the 5th graders were again given the opportunity to go out if they were dressed appropriately.
So herein lies the problem. Who decides what is appropriate dress? Normally you would hope that on a day with those temperatures children would come to school with long pants, long sleeve shirts and coats. Given our heating situation, you might even expect most of them to have a sweater on or a sweatshirt. At the very least, they would have a coat. No?
There are children dropped off in the morning wearing shorts and t-shirts and apparently it is not cool to wear a coat to school on the bus if you're a fifth grader. And I know that you're probably thinking that maybe they can't afford appropriate clothing but that is not the case in our district. What is happening is the parents are unwilling to stand their ground.
A mother actually called the office after school that day and wanted to speak to someone who could explain to her why her son was not allowed to go out to recess because he did not have a coat. He had a sweatshirt on and that's what she deemed okay for him to wear to school. After attempting to explain to her that while she might feel that was okay, we would not necessarily know that, and he or other students might have coats in their lockers and say the same thing. She continued on to tell me that you don't get sick from being cold, you get sick from germs, and why should he be punished because some other student was hiding a coat in their locker.
I would have liked to go on with her and ask her if she really thought that it was possible for two teachers to physically check 120 lockers within a couple of minutes to determine that no one was hiding coats, or whether it would be better to enforce the rule so that the majority of students could get outside in a reasonable amount of time. But I didn't. I would have liked to ask her what we would say to the parent who called up to complain that we let their child go outside with just a sweatshirt on because they were unaware that the child got on the bus without a coat. But I didn't. I would have liked to ask her if she would go outside without a coat when the temp was 23°, feels like 17°. But I didn't. I would have liked to tell her that she had no common sense and her child was spoiled because of it. But I didn't.
Instead I told her that she would have to speak to the principal. I have no idea what the outcome of that conversation was. I forwarded the call and got my coat on to go home.