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SF teachers wear triple shirts in ‘freezing’ college classrooms

Melissa McPeters, CCSF instructor at Mission Campus, bundles up in her classroom on Nov 21. 2022. | Courtesy AFT 2121

“I’m wearing winter clothes like there’s snow,” said Melissa McPeters, a literature teacher at SF City College’s Mission Campus on Wednesday. “I've been wearing wool socks, furry shoes and triple shirts. My feet were freezing.” 

McPeters is not alone in her frosty woes. Teachers and staff at various City College campuses have bemoaned chilly classrooms. In November, photos surfaced of classroom thermostats reading as low as 53 degrees

“It’s been an issue for years,” said Mary Bravewoman, City College math instructor and president of the school’s faculty union AFT 2121.

The temperature reads 54° in the CCSF counseling offices on Nov. 14, 2022. | Courtesy AFT2121

McPeters began teaching at the Mission campus this semester. She said colleagues tell her the building’s heating system has been out of order regularly since 2019.

“People I talk to are like, ‘Yeah, it’s been broken three years,’” McPeters said.

Students also have issues with the cold. Nursing student Jane Oluchi Ikeji said the science building on the college’s main Ocean Campus, where she takes all of her classes, is “freezing.”

“It’s not OK. We are suffering from the fact that the seats are uncomfortable, and it’s a freezing environment,” said Ikeji. “You can’t stay there for more than an hour. It’s that bad.”

Student Chancellor Heather Brandt, who heads the college’s student government, said  students have complained to her about cold room temperatures around the college this semester.

“It’s not limited to one location or one classroom. I’ve heard it mostly at Ocean Campus and John Adams,” Brandt said.

People try to stay warm in the Visual Media Design classroom on Nov. 18, 2022. | Courtesy AFT2121

The visual arts building, the Mission and John Adams campuses, and the student counseling offices at the Ocean Campus all have issues with heating according to AFT 2121 Vice President Malaika Finkelstein, who created an online faculty blog documenting heating issues.

Batmale Hall, where the math department is housed on the Ocean Campus, also had heating issues throughout November until it was fixed on Nov. 28, according to AFT 2121. 

Heating challenges come at a difficult time for City College students and staff. 

Covid cases are ticking up in San Francisco, driving the urgency to open doors and windows to increase ventilation, but often letting in cold air as a result.

“We’re worried about Covid. We want to keep the windows open, but people would freeze,” Finkelstein said.

Several of City College’s facilities use boilers to heat their buildings, and the temperature cannot be adjusted by staff, AFT 2121 said.

College Chancellor David Martin said the college is working to repair its heating system’s boilers, but did not provide details on how many boilers are currently working or broken.

City College of San Francisco’s Ocean Campus is pictured on June 7, 2022. | Juliana Yamada/The Standard

In spring 2023, the college plans to hire four in-house staff dedicated to fixing ongoing infrastructure repairs at the college, which would be funded by Proposition A, a 2020 bond measure, said Martin.

The administration said in the meantime faculty should report cold classrooms to the Buildings and Grounds Department and ask for space heaters.

But a common problem with electric space heaters is that they can blow classroom fuses, especially in older buildings, Finkelstein said. 

“We’re using them in the visual arts building. Hopefully, they don’t blow the fuses,” Finkelstein said.

McPeters said that she has tried using two space heaters in her classroom, but together, they can only warm the classroom to around 60 degrees, which isn’t good enough.

“It felt much colder than that,” McPeters said.

Anthony Tave, director of the college maintenance department, declined to comment.