Students in public schools need not bear the morning heat inside classrooms because they are now allowed to turn on their air-conditioning units as early as 8am, depending on their needs.
Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan, Ph.D., has issued a memorandum to school administrators, giving them the flexibility to determine the best time to switch on their schools' air-conditioning units.
Her decision to revise the 10am through 2pm aircon policy use was a result of her weeklong observation and visits to campuses where many are experiencing an increase in class sizes.
“I've been out to schools myself and as early as 8:30am, I saw that our students are already sweating, especially in the elementary level. So I made the decision to give our schools the flexibility on the air-con use because we don't want our kids to suffer like that,” she said yesterday.
The policy reducing the number of hours that air-conditioning units may be used in public schools and offices was first enforced in February this year.
The policy allows only four hours of air-con use, from 10am to 2pm for elementary schools and from 10am to 3pm for secondary schools.
The early dismissal of classes at the elementary level was also enforced, including shutting down power on weekends to save on utilities.
PSS saw savings of about 33 percent in utility costs since this policy was implemented.
Despite the new flexibility in air-con use, Sablan stressed that everybody is still limited to only four hours each day. Until she sees a clear budget direction for PSS in the new fiscal year, Sablan said the “four-hour policy” will strictly be enforced and observed.
“If they need to turn on their ACs as early as 8am, they can go ahead but they're mindful about the conservation of four hours. And until I hear what we're going to get for [fiscal year] 2013, changing this [energy] conservation policy is really impossible,” she said.
At Garapan Elementary School, principal Paulette Sablan said they decided to split the AC use from 8am to 10am and from 11:30am to 1:30pm each day. The new schedule will begin today. She described the 1.5-hour interval in air-con use as manageable, along with the 30-minute period before the class is dismissed at 2pm. GES has two AC units each at its 31 classrooms, 10 units at the school's administrative offices, and six units at the cafeteria.
At Koblerville Elementary School, principal Rizalina Purugganan said that AC use will be from 8am through 12pm every day. The new schedule was recommended by teachers and parents who were consulted about the issue. The school is home to 427 students this school year.
Purugganan said the classrooms' concrete roofs and ceilings contribute to the hot temperature in the morning, hence the need to provide a cooler environment for students.
At Hopwood Junior High School, principal Jonas Barcinas said a new schedule is still being finalized but they are also considering using their air-con units early and switching them off during lunch breaks. Because the campus is home to 1,200 students, Barcinas said they plan to procure more electric fans for crowded classrooms.
PSS, under the budget allocation for fiscal year 2012, is provided only $30 million, of which $28 million will be used to pay for personnel costs while $2 million will go to operations and all others, including utilities.