For about two weeks, the heat was out in much of Samuel B. Huey Elementary School in West Philadelphia, a teacher told me. As of Monday, it still wasn't operational in the gym, cafeteria, and many classrooms.
With temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, “you can see your breath in the air,” said the teacher, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal.
On Tuesday morning, after a reporter's call to the Philadelphia School District, it was finally fixed.
Chanice Savage, a spokeswoman for the district, said that the work was completed Tuesday morning, but that the principal reported that at no time was classroom heat non-operational.
Sometimes the heat didn't work in the gym and sometimes it didn't work in the cafeteria, but if the cafeteria was cold, students ate in their classrooms, and if the gym was cold, they took health class, also in their classrooms, Savage said.
The teacher disputed those claims: classrooms were frigid, and kids sometimes reported to gym class wearing coats, the teacher said.
Students in the teacher's classroom were bundled up in every layer they could find, often shivering, hands often stuck in their jackets to keep warm, according to the teacher.
When parents called the principal to ask about heating problems, “the answer was, ‘We’re working on it,’” the teacher said.
The heat was always on in the office, the teacher said, and the first floor hallways seemed to always have some warmth, but elsewhere, it was freezing.
“I have one little girl who was really upset and said, ‘My house is cold, and I come here and it should be warm,’” the teacher said.
Many of the district's buildings are old and in need of repair. Teachers and staff at University City High School have reported myriad problems in that school, where parts of the building are cold and wet from standing water, for instance. The heat at that school is balky at best, occupants report.